The governors of New York and Maryland on Thursday each announced big cash lotteries to entice their residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The announcements came as westward-neighbor Ohio celebrated the success of its “Vax-a-Million” lottery campaign, which helped boost week-to-week vaccination numbers 53 percent.
The lotteries appear to be part of a growing trend of states and officials offering cash prizes or other incentives to combat slumping vaccination rates. The country’s seven-day average for daily vaccinations has dropped to around 1.8 million, down from a peak of nearly 3.4 million in mid-April.
In a White House COVID-19 press briefing Friday, Senior White House Advisor Andy Slavitt said that, based on the data the administration has seen, the lotteries “appear to be working.”
“I think the reason they work is because the vast number of people who are not yet vaccinated are actually not opposed to getting vaccinated. They’re just not prioritizing it,” Slavitt said. Public health campaigns, like the lotteries, that draw attention to vaccination “are, not surprisingly, very effective, and so we’re enthusiastic.”
On May 13, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the Buckeye State’s lottery, in which residents ages 18 and up who receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter to win a $1 million cash prize in one of five weekly drawings. Vaccinated residents ages 12 to 17, meanwhile, can enter a lottery to win one of five full-ride college scholarships, which would cover a full four-years’ worth of tuition, room and board, and books to any Ohio state college or university.
Since the announcement, the rate of vaccination in Ohio has increased 28 percent, the state’s department of health announced Thursday. The department also noted that week-to-week vaccination counts jumped 53 percent. About 113,000 residents were vaccinated between May 13 and May 18 after the lottery began, compared with just 74,000 residents vaccinated between May 6 and May 11.
A sizable chunk of the increase is from adolescents ages 12 to 15, who became eligible to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine around the time the lottery was announced. But the health department notes that vaccinations among adults appeared to be in a free fall prior to May 13, with a 25 percent drop in vaccinations just in the weekend starting May 7, compared with the previous weekend.
“We are seeing increasing numbers in all age groups, except those 80 and older, who are highly vaccinated already,” Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said in a statement. “Although the rate among that group is decreasing, it is doing so at a less rapid pace, demonstrating some positive impact even in that group.”
“This dramatic increase in vaccinations indicates that the Vax-a-Million drawing has been impactful in creating momentum for vaccinations throughout Ohio,” McCloud added in a separate statement.
On Thursday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan stood next to a person dressed as a lottery ball as he announced his state’s $2 million “VaxCash” promotion. Starting May 25, the state will randomly select one vaccinated resident to win a $40,000 cash prize every day for 41 days, ending on July 4. Residents need not register; any Marylander vaccinated in the state will be automatically entered into the lottery.
“Go out and get vaccinated to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your fellow Marylanders,” Governor Hogan said in a statement. “And if you needed one more good reason, then go out and get vaccinated for your chance to win a share of this $2 million. So, remember, Maryland—get your shot for a shot to win.”
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced the state’s “Vax & Scratch” promotion. Residents ages 18 and up who get vaccinated at one of 10 state-run mass vaccination sites will be given a $20 state lottery scratch-off ticket for a chance to win up to $5 million.
“We know that vaccinations are the vital piece of the puzzle we need to crush COVID once and for all,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “We’re doing everything we can to make getting a vaccine as quick and easy as possible, but as vaccination rates slow across the state, we’re going to have to get creative to put even more shots in arms.”