Slovakia offers cash to over-60s to have Covid booster shots

Those over 60 will be given $340 to be protected against coronavirus, under new plans

Slovakia will pay €300 ($340) to those over 60 to have Covid-19 booster shots, in a bid to revitalise its flagging vaccine programme.

The government had at first considered handing out vouchers for hotels or restaurants but opted instead on cash payouts. The move was approved in Parliament this week.

Those receiving booster shots by mid-January will receive €300, while over-60s who sign up for the vaccine by that time are entitled to €200.

Slovakia is not the first country to offer incentives to be vaccinated.

Switzerland in October offered citizens who persuaded their friends to have Covid-19 shots free restaurant meals or cinema outings.

The US city of Houston, Texas, in August said it would pay $100 to any person receiving a first dose of a Covid vaccine.

Slovakia, with a population of 5.5 million, has been severely hit by the latest wave of the epidemic, forcing it to revert again to lockdown measures as hospitals filled with Covid patients.

As of Wednesday, it had the world's second-highest infection rate over the past week, according to Our World in Data.

But Slovakia remains well behind other countries in the EU in vaccinating its population, with 68 per cent of people over 60 age fully vaccinated. This is the third-lowest uptake in the bloc after Bulgaria and Romania and well below the 88 per cent figure for all of the EU.

Among Slovakia's total population, 46.5 per cent are fully vaccinated, far below the EU average of 66.8 per cent, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The Slovakian government has discussed making vaccines for older people compulsory but has yet to reach an agreement.

Germany and Austria have also begun laying the groundwork for mandatory shots, despite opposition from some quarters.

Many in Slovakia are sceptical about Covid-19 vaccines. Some opposition figures, including former prime minister Robert Fico, question their efficacy.

On Wednesday, the government extended many lockdown measures until January 9 but opened shops for those who are vaccinated.

Updated: December 9th 2021, 3:14 PM