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Poland bets on lottery to entice COVID-19 vaccine skeptics

Christian Fernsby |
Faced with the challenge of persuading the vaccine skeptics especially among the young and rural segments of the Polish public, Poland's government has decided to offer financial incentives to the vaccine-wary.

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The country's National Vaccination Program Lottery, which kicked off on July 1, has already convinced many Poles to take part. Prizes include cash ranging from 200 Polish zloty (PLN, 51.5 U.S. dollars) to one million PLN, electric mopeds and hybrid cars.

Smaller cash prizes are drawn immediately, while the larger prizes are handed out weekly. The first draw of larger cash prizes of 50,000 PLN and mopeds was held on July 14.

The top prizes - two cash prizes of one million PLN each and two new cars - will be handed out during the final draw in October. Over two million Poles have already signed up during the first two weeks of July, and more than 4,000 have already received their prizes.

As of Monday, over 32 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country of 38 million.

Vaccination rates vary by the country's regions. Large cities have seen half or close to half of their total population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Rural communities are lagging behind, especially in the conservative eastern and southern parts of the country, where in some districts fewer than one in six inhabitants have received two vaccine doses.

The Polish government's vaccination program coordinator has noted with concern that the number of people who sign up for a vaccination appointment is on a steady decline.

"Our greatest challenge is to convince Poles to get vaccinated," Michal Dworczyk, who is also chief of staff of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, said at a press conference in early July. "This week, almost one million vaccine doses were not sent to the vaccination stations due to a lack of interest from people."

Dworczyk noted that the first seven days of July saw a 30 percent week-on-week drop in registrations, and that some of the country's vaccination stations may have to be closed due to lack of interest.

Reacting to the drop in demand, the Polish government has decided to sell its surplus vaccines to other countries, such as Ukraine and Georgia, even though herd immunity is still far off in the country.

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