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Bulgaria offers cash reward to boost vaccination rates among pensioners

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By Reuters

<div> <p><span class="caps">SOFIA</span> -Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Thursday that elderly people who get a <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 shot will be eligible for a cash reward as part of his government’s drive to boost the vaccination rates, the lowest in the European Union. </p> <p>Petkov, who took office this month, said every retired Bulgarian will get a one-off payment of 75 levs ($43.40) in addition to their pension in the next six months when vaccinated with a first or second dose. Pensioners who have already received three shots will also be eligible for the add-on.</p> <p>His centrist coalition government is also launching a wide-spread information campaign to convince vaccine-sceptic Bulgarians to get inoculated and avoid a new deadly wave of the coronavirus that Petkov said could hit as early as mid-January. </p> <p>“Our government’s priority is not to have as many people dying from <span class="caps">COVID</span>, but to ease the pressure on hospitals and mainly to protect our elderly who are most at risk,” Petkov said in a televised statement. </p> <p>Bulgaria is the 27-member EU’s least vaccinated nation, with only 27% of its adult population fully inoculated. The country has the highest <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 related death rates in the bloc. </p> <p>Petkov said he hoped the new incentive would help the Balkan country vaccinate about 300,000 Bulgarians over 65 years of age by the end of January. </p> <p>On Thursday, Bulgaria reported 1,463 new infections, down from a peak in October, and 56 new deaths. The pandemic has killed 30,359 people in the country of 7 million people so far.</p> <p>Some 16,500 vaccine doses were administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to over 3.6 million, health ministry data showed.</p> <p>But many Bulgarians still remain sceptical of vaccines amid entrenched mistrust in state institutions, misinformation and contradictory messages from politicians.</p> <p>($1 = 1.7280 leva)</p> </div>