Get Your Shot and Win a Lot — Covid-19 Vaccination Lotteries in the US

The Vaccine Lottery

Have you gotten your Covid-19 shot yet? If you’re hesitant, you’re not alone. Many people wonder about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. As a result, many are looking for some additional stimulus to go through with the procedure.

The US seems to have found such a stimulus.

And no, it doesn’t come in the form of an extensive, science-based awareness campaign.

It’s provided in the form of a vaccine lottery. That’s right – a lottery that allows participation solely among individuals who have already gotten their shot.

That may seem a bit weird, and the approach raises questions about the vaccine lottery ethics. But, at the same time, the idea paints a very interesting picture of what makes people tick. Of course, the chance of winning some easy cash will always propel change, but does it provide the right reasons to make one decision or another?

The Vaccine Lottery: What Is It and How It Works

Ohio was the first state to announce a vaccination incentive in the form of an exclusive lottery. In mid-May, Ohio’s governor declared a one-million-dollar jackpot weekly lottery accepting participants only among the vaccinated Ohioans.

On May 27, the state announced the first-ever winner in its inaugural vaccine lottery drawing. That lucky person turned out to be Abbigail Bugenske. That’s a definite accomplishment, considering that more than 2.7 million people signed up for a chance to win the grand prize!

Since then, numerous other states have followed in Ohio’s footsteps.

Arkansas made a vaccine lottery announcement at the end of May. While the winnings aren’t as grand as those being offered in Ohio, Arkansas is offering scratch-off tickets for hunting and fishing licenses, as well as for gift certificates.

California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Oregon, and West Virginia also announced their games of luck to get more people enthusiastic about vaccination. Oregon matched Ohio’s offer with a million-dollar prize, New York has a variety of prizes reaching up to five million dollars, and Maryland plans to spend a total of two million dollars on 40 consecutive drawings that will only accept vaccinated individuals as participants.

It seems that the US has widely accepted this approach in an attempt to beat vaccine skepticism. According to many officials, this is the best way to provide a positive stimulus. However, they believe that obliging people to do something isn’t going to work. Getting people enthusiastic about a potential win, on the other hand, could provide a good opportunity to get them enthusiastic about Covid-19 vaccines.

Vaccine Lottery Effectiveness

The next logical question would focus on the effectiveness of the vaccine lottery. In theory, it should work amazingly well. But, what’s the situation like in real life?

People love freebies. People love cash even more. And this tendency is being used for a good cause. The scientific community has already established that the sooner we reach herd community, the sooner we can go back to our everyday lives. So if a financial incentive could accomplish that goal, there’s nothing wrong with it, is there?

Research so far suggests that results are somewhat mixed.

In Colorado, the vaccine lottery effectiveness has been low. Many places across the US are now registering the lowest vaccination rates since the start of the campaign in January.

It may be too early to tell what’s going on. After all, most programs were announced in May (some of them even later). There hasn’t been enough time for such stimuli to deliver a mass enough effect that’s traceable and measurable.

In Ohio, the vaccine lottery shows some promise.

The program was launched at a time when vaccination rates were plateauing in the state. The week after the program was announced, vaccination rates went up 55 percent for those in the 20 to 49 age group. For those aged 16 to 17, the jump was a spectacular 94 percent. There’s no way of predicting if the interest would be sustained or if the novelty would eventually wear off.

We also have to consider that states will need to provide the funding required for such incentives consistently. Therefore, the chances are that after a certain period, the number of vaccinations achieved through such programs will make no financial sense.

How Ethical Are Vaccine Lottery Incentives?

When discussing vaccination lotteries, we have to examine another very important aspect of such perks. That aspect pertains to ethics.

Should people be making health decisions based on a scientific argument or greed? Or is the provision of such stimuli justified when the individual’s decision will benefit the entire community?

Both of these theories have their proponents.

The fact that vaccine lotteries are happening across the US suggests that decision-makers are not facing an ethical dilemma. Instead, it seems that in their minds, all means are justifiable when the end goal is ensuring community health and reducing deaths. If you come to think about the situation rationally, such logic does make a lot of sense.

So, we agree that paying people to get vaccinated may work. But is it the right thing to do, regardless of the circumstances?

According to some behavioral scientists, offering people financial incentives is an approach that will deliver results, but that will potentially backfire in the long run.

Being offered money to get a shot (that’s supposed to be good for you, isn’t it) is more likely to increase skepticism about vaccines. After all, why would governments have to provide such massive bonuses if the vaccines were really all that beneficial? Large segments of the population could very easily establish such logic.

Concerns over fairness and equity are also being expressed when it comes to vaccine lottery eligibility.

For them to work, incentives have to be planned and structured very carefully. In addition, equality and fairness have to be ensured, reducing the risk of backlash.

The US has been using similar incentives to organize many kinds of health campaigns through the years. For example, payments already prove to be very effective when encouraging the donation of blood or smoking cessation. The very same logic could be applied to Covid-19 shots.

Should You Participate in Vaccine Lotteries?

That one is really up to you! If you’ve gotten your shots already, why not join such opportunities? Vaccination lotteries are real, and there are already people who have won serious amounts through such programs.

If you’re now deciding to get vaccinated, however, you should consider more than just the monetization potential.

Do your research and count on reputable sources of information. CDC, the World Health Organization, Mayo Clinic, and various state authorities have put together comprehensive guides on getting vaccinated. Understanding the risks and the benefits will help you make an informed decision that will be best for your health.

Luckily, we have access to a ton of information today. Getting vaccinated to participate in a lottery may seem like a very desirable idea, but it’s not the smartest thing to do. It’s up to you to boost awareness and make the best choices for your family. And if you do get vaccinated, lottery participation would most definitely be the cherry on top.

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