Open For Summer? Provinces Introduce Vaccine Lotteries, Encourage Immunization

Written By Robyn McNeil on June 20, 2021
Background: Group of people sitting happily along a lake edge. There's a small wooden boat to the left in the water. Foreground text: Open for Summer Lottery

Alberta became the second province to announce a vaccine lottery to complement its recently announced “Open for Summer” plan. The move sees the wild rose province mirror Manitoba’s efforts as Albertan’s uptake of the first dose wanes.

In a video released last weekend, Jason Kenney, Alberta’s Premier, announced the “Open for Summer” lottery.  Only open to vaccinated Albertans, the lottery will feature three $1 million prizes. In addition, forty additional travel-related awards were announced today for Albertans who receive a second dose before August 24.

Kenney called the incentives a positive investment encouraging the vaccine-hesitant to get the shot and keep Alberta’s reopening on track.

“The impetus for the lottery is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Kenney on Monday

“Every day that goes by that we have hundreds of thousands of people that are not vaccinated, it opens us up to a certain degree of risk. We had very strong demand for first doses until about ten days ago. And we saw it drop just right off.” 

Get your shot (at making some coin)

Provincial polling suggests nearly 85 percent of Albertans are willing to get vaccinated. But, only slightly more than 69 percent have received the jab. 

“There always will be some who will never get a vaccine of any kind. No fact and no plea to civic responsibility will sway them,” Kenney said.

“But we also know that there are lots of people who want to get vaccinated or are thinking hard about it, but they just haven’t taken the plunge yet. We really need to push hard to encourage the 15 percent who want to get vaccinated or are open to it but have not yet gotten around to it.”

While the prizes announced in Manitoba’s $1.9 million lottery are less lucrative, there are more chances to win

Manitobans with one vaccine dose by August 2 are eligible for the first of two draws. Those with a second dose by September 6 can enter to win the second. Each contest will see three $100,000 prizes go to winners within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Four more $100,000 prize lots will get divvied between smaller regions. And there are 10 $25,000 scholarships for youth, 12-17, in each draw. 

“I’m not a big fan of gambling,” said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.  “And that’s why I think this draw makes such good sense. Because you’re gambling with COVID if you’re not getting a vaccination.”

Laws of Attraction

Any consensus around whether vaccine incentives, including lotteries, work is mixed, said Timothy Caulfield. Caulfield is a Canada research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta

In an interview with the Calgary Herald, he noted that the messaging must be appropriate if implemented.

“There’s some evidence that for those who are slightly hesitant or complacent, an incentive might work. It might be a helpful strategy,” Caulfield said.

“We don’t want to suggest that we’re incentivizing this because we have to, because it’s dangerous, and there aren’t other reasons you should be getting it done. We’re incentivizing it because it’s good for your community.”

Caulfield also noted recent discussion around whether a lottery could serve as a gateway for those with gambling addictions. Ultimately, though, he said there is a place for well-executed incentives.

South of the border Ohio faced criticism last month when the state launched a COVID-19 immunization lottery. But, according to the Associated Press, vaccine uptake rose by 33 percent in the week after the program launched.

Still, Robert Oxoby, a behavioural economist at the University of Calgary, disagrees. 

Speaking with Calgary Herald, Oxoby said the science doesn’t add up. 

“You can’t change preferences with money. There’s years of evidence,” said Oxoby, who heads UCalgary’s economics department.

“People who don’t trust vaccines, don’t trust vaccines. Vaccines, people do out of their own concerns or concerns about their family, and the vaccine hesitancy crowd, the anti-vax crowd, just doesn’t give a s—.”

More lotteries to follow?

According to the Ontario government, nearly 73 percent of adult Ontarians have received one vaccine dose. Approximately 10 percent have received both.

“We are not considering a lottery at this time,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement Wednesday. “Ontario’s vaccine rollout has been a success to date.”

Meanwhile, in Arviat, Nunavut, getting a COVID-19 vaccine means a chance to win some cash.

The municipality, which has seen most of the territory’s COVID-19 cases, is promoting vaccination with cash incentives.

Residents of the tiny hamlet of nearly 3,000 people can win one of five $2,000 prizes if they get the shot.

“It’s to entice people to get inoculated,” Arviat Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. said. “It’s a very small price to pay in order to get herd immunity here, in case we get a second wave.”

 

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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax with an awesome teen, a mischievous cat, and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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