Jab incentives get people talking, laughing — and vaxxing

22 August 2021 - 00:00 By tanya farber
Jolene Samuels has been incentivising people to vaccinate on Facebook.
Jolene Samuels has been incentivising people to vaccinate on Facebook.
Image: SUPPLIED

It started when she raffled perfume and wine, but three weeks later Jolene Samuels has become a symbol of how to win support for vaccinations using humour and the chance to win a prize — especially if it is a vibrator.

Samuels, of Cape Town, runs up to three Facebook raffles a day for people who have proof of vaccination, and has been mentioned by Western Cape premier Alan Winde as a positive example.

“I am 35 and before my age group was allowed to get it, I was crying for a vaccine. When it opened up, I immediately got registered and got vaccinated,” she said.

To support friends who had encouraged her, she raffled perfume and wine, then had an idea: what if she created something fun and competitive that would create a safe space for people to ask questions about vaccines, get emotional support, and be part of a community where vaccines are discussed with accurate information?

More of my friends started getting vaccinated, strangers and health workers started reaching out to me, a friend donated a R500 voucher for the next raffle — and things grew from there
Jolene Samuels

“More of my friends started getting vaccinated, strangers and health workers started reaching out to me, a friend donated a R500 voucher for the next raffle — and things grew from there,” said Samuels.

“We can’t wait for the state or anyone else to pick up the pieces of what’s left of our lives. I do sometimes go to bed with a migraine but it’s from all the laughing. Humour really gets people to loosen up.”

The funniest episode so far on her Jab Raffles involved vibrators donated by a chain of sex toy shops. A record number of entries “caused so much chaos … everybody wanted one and it was hilarious”, said Samuels.

Despite threats from anti-vaxxers, she plans to keep raffling everything from grocery vouchers to cash to handmade clothes.

“This is a place to share information in a way that people can understand. The internet is littered with false information, and people don’t understand medical jargon and don’t want to sit through long press briefings,” she said.

Companies are also motivating people to get into vaccination queues. On Game’s Vax Appreciation Wednesdays, it will be offering 10% discounts every Wednesday until September 15. Marketing executive Katherine Madley said there has been a “positive uptake” of this “way of thanking customers for getting vaccinated because we believe in the effectiveness of vaccinations to keep our employees and customers safe”.

Wimpy is offering people a free cup of coffee within 48 hours of being vaccinated.

Dr Sheri Fanaroff, of the Gauteng General Practitioners’ Collaboration, said such initiatives could have a positive effect.

“South Africans respond well to incentives, so hopefully, initiatives like this will encourage more people to register, especially among the younger cohort,” she said.

But professor Keymanthri Moodley, director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at Stellenbosch University, said: “Though incentives will work to a certain extent, it’s not sufficient in a public health crisis.”


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