Is a shot in the arm worth a burger?

Harvey’s has come up with what it thinks is a suitable thing to entice GTA residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The burger chain announced yesterday that it is giving away up to $250,000 worth of Angus and Lightlife hamburgers as a reward for people who get jabbed. The “Best Shot” initiative is running at pop-up vaccination clinics around the GTA through July.

The Harvey’s RV will be on site at the various pop-ups, while Canadians outside the GTA can post a vaccination selfie using the hashtag #CanadasBestShot and tag Harvey’s in the photo. They can also comment or reply to a Harvey’s social posting sharing their “Best Shot story” about why or who they’re getting vaccinated for. Eligible entries will receive a message from containing a unique code that can be used online or on the Harvey’s app.

“Our health officials say the best shot we have at combating Covid-19 is ensuring as many Canadians are vaccinated as possible,” said Harvey’s president David Colebrook in a release. “Giving out free Harvey’s burgers is our way of saying thank you to those who are doing their part to keep everyone safe.”

While brands offering free goods or services to incentivize people to get vaccinated has become fairly common in the U.S., it remains something of a rarity in Canada.

While companies like Labatt have pushed Canadians to get vaccinated by appealing to their sense of community and a desire to return to the pre-Covid days, examples of brands actually offering rewards are few.

In March, Manulife Financial said it would award 400 Vitality Points to members of its Manulife Vitality program showing proof of vaccination, although it stressed that not receiving the vaccine would have “no negative effort” on its life and health insurance coverage.

“Rewarding positive actions such as supporting the Covid-19 vaccine is one more way we’re showing up to support the health of individuals, their families and communities across Canada,” said Manulife president and CEO Mike Doughty in a release.

And Sombrero Latin Foods, a specialty grocery store in the GTA, offered a free gift to people who tagged it in a vaccination selfie, saying “We all want this to be the last lockdown, so let’s get vaccinated!”

The lack of incentives could have something to do with Canadians’ generally positive attitude towards vaccination. According to Canada’s Covid-19 Vaccination Tracker, 59.59% of the Canadian population had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of June 4, with 6.5% of the population now fully vaccinated. About 25.1 million doses have been administered.

But as the vaccine rollout continues, Canada gets closer to bumping up against a small but stalwart group of vaccine resisters. According to an April study by Abacus Data, 8% of Canadians have said they will never take a vaccine for Covid-19, with 28% indicating that they would “prefer to wait a bit to see how the vaccine works out as others take it”, or “would prefer not to take one, but could be persuaded to.”

That puts Canada roughly in line with the United Kingdom, where 7% of adults reported hesitancy in the most recent survey (a slight tick up from 6% in the previous survey), and ahead of Australia, where 15% of adults recently indicated they were “not all likely” to get vaccinated and another 14% said they were “not very likely” to get vaccinated.

And then there’s the United States, where some polling has pegged the number of people unwilling to get vaccinated at as high as 20% of the population.

That has led several American brands to try to incentivize the population to get vaccinated, from Krispy Kreme offering a free glazed donut, to burger chain White Castle offering a free dessert-on-a-stick and Budweiser offering free beer.

And there are some examples that could only come from the U.S. States like Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, have created vaccine lotteries, with the latter’s “Vax-a-Million” offering five $1 million prizes and five full college scholarships to residents 12 and over who have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

For some residents, it’s the very definition of a lucky shot.

Chris Powell