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Netherlands offers free pickled herring as Covid jab incentive

Netherlands offers free pickled herring as Covid jab incentive

After Russia offered cars, Washington state spliffs, Indonesia live chickens and Hong Kong the chance of a £1.2m apartment, the latest country to reward people who show up for their Covid shots is the Netherlands – with soused herring.

Early batches of Hollandse nieuwe, or new-season Dutch herring, a traditional delicacy consumed to the tune of 75m a year, are being distributed to vaccination centres around the country as an encouragement for people to get their jabs.

The incentive is not, admittedly, quite as big as that in California, whose $116.5m (£83.5m) lottery draw offered 10 top prizes of $1.5m each to winning vaccinees, or New York’s Vax n Scratch, which gave away free state scratchcards with a chance to win a $5m prize.

Also in the US, Ohio ran a draw offering five full scholarships to any of the state’s universities or colleges, Maine gave away 10,000 fishing and hunting licenses and West Virginia tempted reticent recipients with hunting rifles and custom trucks.

In the race to reach herd immunity, some administrations are even more creative. Washington state’s Joints for Jabs scheme, which runs until 12 July, allows licensed pharmacies to reward over-21s who get their a first or second dose with a pre-rolled spliff.

Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has promised that everyone who gets the first of their two doses of vaccine between 14 June and 11 July will be entered into a weekly prize draw with a chance to win one of five cars worth 1m roubles (£10,000) each.

In Hong Kong, where the pandemic has largely been kept under control but low vaccination rates could yet lead to a major outbreak, shopping vouchers, flights and a sumptuous HK$10.8m flat are among the prizes in various vaccination draws.

Elsewhere in Asia, the rural Mae Chaem district of northern Thailand credits its rather more modest cow lottery – with 27 cows to be won – with encouraging more than 50% of its mainly elderly residents to register for their shot.

In Indonesia’s West Java province, a sceptical, elderly and predominantly Muslim population worried that Covid vaccines are not halal is being persuaded by the promise of a live chicken.

Hesitancy is low in the Netherlands – polls show more than 80% of the population want to be vaccinated – but authorities say all encouragement is welcome.

The first barrel of Hollandse nieuwe – young herring caught from mid-May when their fat content is considered just right, then gutted, soused and consumed raw either whole or on bread with chopped onion – is usually auctioned off for a good cause.

This year, with an auction impossible, due to Covid restrictions, it was presented “on behalf of the Dutch people” to the head of the municipal health services organising the country’s vaccination campaign.

More barrels have been sent to vaccination centres nationwide, where the fish – whose annual arrival on 15 June is celebrated with ceremonies and flag-waving – is being offered to staff and to everyone who shows up for their shot.

Agnes Leewis, the director of the Dutch fish marketing board, said the decision was only logical. Thanks to the centres’ staff, she said “we can now hopefully trust that everyone in the Netherlands will feel like a ‘new Dutch’ in a very short time”.

As for recipients, she said: “A herring for a jab. Who could possibly resist?”


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