A slowdown in Massachusetts’ vaccination rate has motivated state leaders to take aggressive action – and possibly put money in your pockets.
Gov. Charlie Baker recently announced the new “Mass VaxMillions” lottery, giving vaccinated residents a chance at life-changing prizes.
For adults, those prizes include five separate $1 million drawings; for kids 12-17 they are comprised of five full-ride ($300K) college scholarships.
State officials hope lottery will drive vaccines
Vaccinated? You can play.
Not yet there? Well, you still have a while.
Eligible, vaccinated residents – starting July 1 and ending August 20 – can enter the drawing, with weekly announcements running from the week of July 26 to August 27.
Full details can be found here.
To win, a person must be a permanent Massachusetts resident and have received the vaccination in the state.
“If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines and thinking about getting vaccinated, but for whatever reason haven’t, here’s another reason for you to come forward, protect yourself, your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors by getting vaccinated here in the commonwealth,” said Baker in a media conference.
The lottery program comes on the heels of smaller giveaways like gift-cards and efforts – including pop-up clinics – to make getting the vaccine easier than ever.
Any increase caused by the latest efforts, meanwhile, “would matter a lot,” said Baker.
“That could be worth hundreds of thousands of people.”
Despite the state’s urgent pleas, Massachusetts is doing much better than many states with its vaccination rate.
The Mayo Clinic reports that nearly 70% of Massachusetts’ 6.85 million population have received at least one dose, while nearly 60% are fully vaccinated.
Compare that to somewhere like Alabama (37% and 30%, respectively) or even Delaware (56% and 46%), and Massachusetts can feel good.
But a problem still exists: the slowdown of progress.
Officials have in recent weeks bemoaned the slowing of vaccination-rate progress after missing the state’s goal of 4.1 million full vaccinations by early June.
Slowdowns have been especially pervasive in minority communities, where less than half of Black and Latino residents have been vaccinated.
We want to get as close to 100% percent as possible,” Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron told WBUR.
“We really do.”
Mass far from alone in vaccine promotions
Massachusetts’ move is not unprecedented.
Other states, most notably Ohio, have undertaken similar lotteries in an effort to drive turnout at vaccination sites.
The Buckeye State, for instance, announced Wednesday the state’s fourth $1 million prize winner – a college professor – and fourth full-ride scholarship winner, a 17-year-old high school baseball player.
Interestingly, Baker and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had a conversation prior to Massachusetts’ program unveiling, according to Baker. Estimates say Ohio’s program helped boost the state’s vaccination rate by 45%.
A similar lottery system – including trucks, hunting licenses, and free rifles – is underway in West Virginia, along with Ohio-adjacent programs in California and New York.
Less life-changing initiatives also exist:
Indiana: Free Girl Scout cookies
New York City: Free Shake Shack fries (among other things)
Maryland: Free pizza
New Jersey and Connecticut: Free beer
Miami, Florida: SHOTS
For the most part, vaccine incentives have been heralded by health officials.
“I think that incentivization for a desired public health behavior is absolutely appropriate and has been actually shown to be already [effective] in the vaccine campaign,” Monica Gandhi, a professor at the University of California’s medical school, told Scientific America.
“Beer, doughnuts, $1-million lottery tickets—it’s just human behavior.”