The chance to win cash prizes, including millions of dollars, actually did “little to move the needle” in terms of increasing Covid-19 vaccinations in the states that introduced such incentives this year, according to a study published Friday which backs up previous research on the failure of vaccine lotteries.
In what they described as the “first study of its kind,” researchers from the University of Colorado Denver looked at all 19 states that implemented cash drawings, such as the multi-million dollar lotteries held in New York, Maryland and Ohio.
They calculated the number of vaccines administered (per 1,000 people) in these states both before and after the incentives were announced, compared to the rates in places where lotteries and cash prizes weren’t introduced.
The researchers found “no statistically significant association” between a cash drawing announcement and vaccination rates in these states, according to the findings published in the JAMA Medical Journal, which are yet to be peer reviewed.
The study’s authors highlighted that they looked at all the states collectively, meaning it is possible some individual states may have had more success than others (though existing studies of individual states have so far come to the same conclusion about lotteries being a flop).
But when analyzed all together, there was essentially “zero difference” in vaccinations in states that held lotteries versus those that didn’t, explained Dr. Andrew Friedson, one of the study’s authors who is an associate professor of economics at CU Denver.
Though a million dollar prize would seem appealing, the study’s authors emphasized that cash lotteries may have been brushed off by many because of the lack of guaranteed outcome. For that reason, other incentives like direct cash payments and giveaways would likely be more effective at increasing vaccinations, they speculated. Another problem with the cash drawing incentives, the study’s authors said, is that they often fail to address the fundamental reasons preventing many from getting the jab, including misinformation and a lack of trust in vaccines.
“Drawings were not, by any means, an informative vaccine promotional strategy,” said Friedson. “It is highly possible that putting funds toward clear and complete messaging on vaccination would have been far more effective, such as awareness campaigns or more aggressive countermeasures against misinformation.”
While there is no comparable study on the efficacy of other incentives, there are some early indications of their success. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in late September cited the city’s $100 vaccination reward as key in recent progress made in boosting its vaccination rate. Vaccinations rose 40% during the week after the program began, with the rewards since reaching tens of thousands of people. In Harris County, Texas’ most populous county, a similar $100 incentive program reached more than 65,000 people and was praised by local officials. Others haven’t proven so successful: West Virginia saw its vaccination continue to decline after it started offering $100 to residents age 16-35 for vaccinations starting in May.
Vaccine lotteries and other cash drawings were introduced by the governors of numerous states—including California, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington—earlier this year as vaccination rates plummeted. States generally relied on federal coronavirus funds to put on the sweepstakes, which included millions of dollars in prize money (New York’s program offered prizes up to $5 million).
79%. That’s how many U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 68% have been fully inoculated against the virus, according to a tracker run by The New York Times. White House coronavirus experts have credited the success of vaccine mandates for surging vaccination rates.
“These are the U.S. states trying lotteries to increase Covid vaccinations.” (The New York Times)