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Israeli Health Officials Use Free Drink as Vaccine Incentive

Israeli Health Officials Use Free Drink as Vaccine Incentive

Israeli health authorities have adopted a novel approach to convince young adults to get vaccinated: booze.

Last weekend, a mobile vaccination station was set up in a Tel Aviv pub and a free drink was offered to anyone who showed up for their first injection.

With two-thirds of eligible Israelis already vaccinated, the country surged ahead in the early days of the vaccine rollout, but take up has slowed in recent weeks – which the government blames on online misinformation. Israel’s Health Ministry has strengthened a digital taskforce to counter spurious claims about the vaccines, while local authorities have adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to reluctant holdouts.

The unvaccinated have been warned that they may be refused entry to concerts and venues, while also enticing them to get the jab with free pizza, hummus and knafeh (a sweet cheese pastry dish). In the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, health officials have sough to tackle suspicion of the vaccine by pairing the first injection with a plate of cholent, a traditional stew that is usually served on Shabbat. A local spokesperson said the incentive resulted in three times the number of people showing up.

“Decide whether you are part of the celebration or whether you will be left behind,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Twitter. “Just lend a shoulder to the vaccine.”

From last Sunday, vaccinated Israelis could show a ‘Green Pass’ which grants them entry to gyms, swimming pools, hotels, cultural events and places of worship.

Israel has refused to include Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in their vaccine rollout, claiming that under the terms of the Oslo Agreement the Palestinian Authority and not the Israeli government is responsible for vaccinations in the territories. However, following international pressure the Israeli government agreed earlier this month to deliver 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to Palestinian medical workers in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has obtained thousands of doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine and is also in line to get more through Covax, a WHO-led partnership aimed at helping poorer countries.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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