Students in Kazakhstan are being incentivized to get their Covid vaccines. Vaccinated students will be able to get discounts on their tuition fees, priority for student housing, transport vouchers, and – the ultimate student incentive – free food. At some universities, students can also get free access to a range of sporting and cultural activities.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are also academic inducements that include free language, computer, and other skills-based courses.
Rewards are also offered to teaching staff in higher education institutions, either as a bonus or through paid leave.
At least seven of the country’s major universities had already signed up to this vaccine reward scheme by the end of June, and more will undoubtedly follow.
With the Delta variant of Covid-19 rampaging through Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asia, the need to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible and to maintain health and sanitary measures has never been greater.
Kazakhstan has already been taking active measures to get vaccines distributed, including developing its own vaccine, QazVac, and striking an agreement to produce Russia’s Sputnik V. As at 5 August, EurasiaNet reported almost 30% of the population having received at least one shot.
This compares to 16% in Uzbekistan, 11% in Tajikistan and just 8% in Kyrgyzstan (no figures are made public for Turkmenistan, which still apparently has no coronavirus cases).
The speed with which coronavirus has torn through Central Asia in the last couple of months has been devastating. It’s not an overstatement to say that almost everyone I know in the region has either had Covid themselves or knows several others who have. Healthcare facilities are overstretched and not always fully equipped to help. On top of that, vaccine hesitancy remains an issue, as it is among other populations.
So yes, this Kazakh student reward scheme might seem materialistic or a little gimmicky. But you know what? If it gets more folk vaccinated and helps keep them and the people around them safe, let’s keep that free pizza coming.