US dangles haircuts and beer to boost Covid vaccination rate

WASHINGTON: Drink a beer, sit back for a haircut - and get your Covid-19 vaccination. That was US President Joe Biden's message on Wednesday in launching a final push to inoculate 70 per cent of the adult population by the July 4 holiday.

"That's right: Get a shot, have a beer," Mr Biden said in a speech announcing the campaign to meet his Independence Day target.

The White House has recruited everything from big brewers like Anheuser-Busch to small black-owned barbershops to spearhead the effort.

"We are asking the American people for help," Mr Biden said.

"It is going to take everyone... so we can declare independence from Covid-19 and free ourselves from the grip it has held over our lives for the better part of a year."

With the black community behind in vaccination rates, the White House has put special emphasis on barbershops and salons, which often double as African American social hubs. They will "offer information to customers, book appointments or even use their own businesses as vaccination sites," Mr Biden added.

Some states are offering lotteries with prizes as big as US$1 million (S$1.3 million). In West Virginia, firearms and pickup trucks are on the prize list.

The US is on the cusp of achieving the 70 per cent goal, 63 per cent of adults have received at least one shot of a vaccine. Twelve states have crossed 70 per cent and more are expected to get there this week, Mr Biden said.

Just over half of adults have been fully vaccinated, leading to a plunge in the toll from the virus, which has killed nearly 600,000 Americans.

Daily cases are below 20,000 for the first time since March last year and death rates are down more than 85 per cent. - AFP