B.C. not ruling out vaccine incentives, premier says after Manitoba announces lottery

Premier John Horgan doesn't think incentives are necessary to get more British Columbians vaccinated against COVID-19 – but he's not ruling them out, either.

Horgan was asked about the possibility of enticing fence-sitters on Wednesday, hours after Manitoba announced a lottery offering nearly $2 million in cash prizes and scholarships to those who roll up their sleeves and get their shots.

"I don't want to jinx it, but I do believe that we can get to our objectives without incentives," Horgan said. "But if it comes to that, we're not going to rule that out, not at all."

Manitoba is holding two draws, each with seven $100,000 prizes, as well as 10 scholarships of $25,000 that will be awarded to people between the ages of 12 and 17.

Everyone in the province who has received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine before Aug. 2 will be entered into the first draw, and those who have received both doses by Sept. 6 will be entered into the second.

When it comes to vaccination rates, Manitoba isn't far behind B.C. The prairie province has administered at least one dose to 69.7 per cent of eligible residents, compared to 72.4 per cent in British Columbia.

It's unclear how many more people B.C. will be able to vaccinate before hitting a wall – there are COVID-19 deniers, anti-vaxxers and others who are vehemently opposed to getting a shot – but Horgan said officials are "confident' the province can reach as high as 85 or 90 per cent buy-in.

Already, the province has started shifting its focus to second doses. Of the 384,472 shots administered over the last week, 202,353 have been first doses. That's an average of 28,907 per day, down from an average of 54,033 first doses per day in the previous week.

Horgan said the province's biggest hurdle is currently vaccine availability.

"We need more vaccine, and I've made that clear to the prime minister," the premier said. "These vaccines are in high demand and we don't produce them domestically, so we have a challenge there procuring supply."

Manitoba has also announced a vaccine passport that will be given to fully vaccinated residents two weeks after their second dose, and exempt them from some self-isolation requirements.

The topic of vaccine passports has been raised numerous times in B.C. over recent months, and Horgan said Wednesday that local officials still "haven't landed on that issue."

"We're not enthusiastic about it, quite frankly. This is health information at the end of the day," he said.

With files from CTV News Winnipeg's Kayla Rosen