Wellness expert: Incentives to help encourage COVID-19 vaccination, but 'not sustainable'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — As local authorities and even companies offer incentives to encourage vaccinations against COVID-19, a wellness expert welcomed the initiative, but raised concerns about its sustainability.

"Any sort of incentive will help but it's not sustainable and not without its risks and of course sensitivities especially when it's implemented in the workplace and not just our LGUs," certified mental health first aider Zarah Hernaez told CNN Philippines' The Exchange with Rizo Hizon.

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Hernaez emphasized the need to promote a mindset prioritizing public safety and the health of oneself and their loved ones to motivate people to roll up their sleeves and get the coronavirus shots.

Sustained vaccine education is also important, she added, along with "counterpropaganda" to fears surrounding inoculation — one of the reasons she listed for vaccine hesitancy among the public, along with concerns over the accessibility of doses, and preference for certain brands.

RELATED: WHO: Vaccine hesitancy no longer a problem as Filipinos 'eagerly' await their turn for a shot

"But again, at this rate it's a race for herd immunity and we do what we can as fast as we can," Hernaez said. "Bottomline: incentivizing vaccination now is a band-aid solution but it's a solution we need to propel us to normalcy."

In a separate interview with The Exchange, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said incentives are just an "added way" to entice citizens to get vaccinated, but providing them facts about vaccines and the entire process is more important.

The mayor added testaments from vaccinees about their experience can also help encourage more inoculations, a sentiment shared by the chairman of Barangay Sucat in Muntinlupa City, Raffy Sevilla.

Zamora recently released Executive Order No. 81, which encourages employees in San Juan to get vaccinated, and EO No. 82, which promotes the provision of incentives for inoculated individuals by business establishments.

Meanwhile, Sevilla said his barangay is raffling off some 20 sacks of milled rice every Sunday, with every vaccinee automatically entitled to a raffle ticket.

Some companies have also answered the call to offer incentives to vaccinated customers. For instance, telco giant Smart launched its "Bakuna Benefits" program, which features perks such as discounts and freebies from dining establishments for people who have received their COVID-19 shots.

Program participant The Moment Group — whose restaurants include 8Cuts, Din Tai Fung, Manam, and Ooma — offers vaccinated customers a free Moment Loyalty card, which grants them discounts when eating at their restaurants over the course of a year.

"We really like to help the economy get back to normal but also it has to be in a safe way. That's why it's important to tie it up with a vaccination program such as this because at the end of the day, in order to get back to real normalcy, we need to be safe," said The Moment Group co-founder for creative development Abba Napa.

The national government's "overall" target is to vaccinate 70% of the Philippine population against COVID-19 in hopes of achieving herd immunity.