False Incentives for Vaccination

Last week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul launched a new program: an incentive to get children ages 5 through 11 to take COVID shots, now that they are available. The program in question has that usual bureaucratic and humorless advertising campaign: “Vaccinate, Educate, Graduate.” 

According to the New York State website, “Parents and guardians of children ages 5 through 11 who receive their first vaccine dose by December 19th can enter the State’s incentive program for a chance for their child to win a full scholarship to any two- or four-year SUNY or CUNY college or university; the scholarship includes tuition, room, and board. Ten winners will be announced each week beginning November 24th, with a total of 50 winners being selected over the five-week period.”

Speaking at the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center in Westchester County, Governor Hochul said, “Our critical work to make the vaccine accessible and available to all eligible children and their families is underway—and we will creatively support and celebrate those who get vaccinated.” Hochul’s predecessor, former Governor Andrew Cuomo offered the same “prize” to 12-17 year olds, but with a different title—“Get a Shot to Make Your Future.” Clearly, this is better than New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Shake Shack”—an incentive to get a free burger and fries with vaccination.

Setting aside the absurdity of the latest incentive, which sounds more like a pool store commercial—“buy a hot tub and enter to win a vacation in Cancun!”—this statist intrusion into people’s private lives to influence the decisions they are making for their children is outside of the bounds of what a government representative should do. This isn’t an education program in which the best artwork wins the student a gift card to Barnes & Noble, or school supplies for a year. A decision to vaccinate one’s child with any vaccine, let alone an experimental COVID shot, is something that is up to the parents of that child. 

After a whole year of misinformation and censorship about the safety and efficacy of the COVID shots, any person would be cautious about whether to take it—even more so whether to give it to children. There is no way of knowing what kind of long-term effects this shot will have. In addition, with different variants and mutations of COVID, the current shot is not proving all that effective. Let’s also not forget the fact that children are rarely negatively impacted by the virus.

Government bureaucrats are doing these things less out of concern with public health and safety and more because they think children belong to the state.They believe the government has the right to determine which of the choices children’s parents make will be sanctioned. Not only are we talking about an injection which might permanently and negatively affect a child’s development, but we are also sketching out the future for those who are good subjects and take the shot versus those who do not. 

Do we even know what the state of higher education will be by the time a 5-year-old grows up and is ready for college? Do we know whether the vaccine itself will have an irreversible effect which might actually prevent the child from going to college? Do we know what exactly the growing child’s interest will be by the time he or she is ready to go to college? What if the grown child chooses a private school? What if he or she chooses not to go to college at all? 

We shouldn’t even have to ask such questions. Our state and federal government should simply stay out of people’s private lives. But even if we take this newest incentive (which is akin to getting a Dum-Dum sucker after a shot) at face value, these questions logically follow. For so much of the COVID phenomenon, the possibility of making personal choices for a good and productive life has been taken away from people. Instead, the very idea of the “pursuit of happiness” is something only the Biden regime or the CDC or World Economic Forum can define and hand out—with rations, of course. This bizarre reality continues right down to these so-called “incentives.” 

Now, with Governor Hochul’s latest program, the state has the audacity to determine the professional and intellectual future for a few “lucky” children. The freedom to simply be is not something a statist is interested in, except of course, when it concerns his or her own freedom. If this was indeed about health and safety, then the vaccinations for both adults and children would pass unnoticed. It would be a matter of common sense and not of endless politicking. 

Most parents are not duped by all of this theater, much like they’re not duped by the ideological indoctrination in schools. Yet some, of course, will follow along happily because they would rather be submissive, which is a mindset that has been prevalent among those who see liberty and personal responsibility as antithetical to life. Such people define “government as tyrant father but demand[s] it behave as nurturant mother,” notes Camille Paglia. This is a clear existential contradiction and it might, at least partially, explain the situation we find ourselves in today. No matter how many ridiculous incentives government offers, the question still remains: will people choose freedom or slavery? 

About Emina Melonic

Emina Melonic is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. Originally from Bosnia, a survivor of the Bosnian war and its aftermath of refugee camps, she immigrated to the United States in 1996 and became an American citizen in 2003. She has a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Her writings have appeared in National Review, The Imaginative Conservative, New English Review, The New Criterion, Law and Liberty, The University Bookman, Claremont Review of Books, The American Mind, and Splice Today. She lives near Buffalo, N.Y.

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

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