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Study suggests Louisiana's COVID-19 vaccine lottery won't work

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A lab technician working a bottle containing for COVID-19 vaccine testing at Chula Vaccine Research Center, run by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 25, 2020. Thai health officials said that scientists in Thailand have had promising results in testing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate on mice, and have begun testing on monkeys. (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Study suggests Louisiana’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery won’t work

July 12, 08:00 PM July 12, 08:00 PM

With the deadline to register for Louisiana’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery upon the state, a new study by the Boston University School of Medicine found lottery-based incentives do not increase COVID-19 vaccination rates.

“Our results suggest that state-based lotteries are of limited value in increasing vaccine uptake,” said Allan J. Walkey, a physician at Boston Medical Center and a professor of medicine. “Therefore, the resources devoted to vaccine lotteries may be more successfully invested in programs that target underlying reasons for vaccine hesitancy and low vaccine uptake.”

The finding comes as Gov. John Bel Edwards reminded Louisiana residents to register for the state’s “Shot At a Million” lottery, a vaccination program offering $2.3 million in cash and prizes.

“As the more contagious Delta COVID-19 variant spreads across Louisiana, Friday, July 9 is the perfect day for Louisianans to take the vaccine to protect themselves against COVID-19 while still beating the deadline to register for the first Shot At A Million drawing,” Edwards said.

Funding for the vaccine lottery prizes comes from the Louisiana Department of Health, which will give away $100,000 a week from July 14 to Aug. 4, nine $100,000 scholarships for children ages 12-17 and a grand prize of $1 million on Aug. 6. Winners must confirm their vaccine status.

A portion of the lottery prizes comes from federal COVID-19 stimulus money allocated to the department.

According to the Edwards administration, 1.8 million residents have taken at least one vaccine dose with an increase occurring after the lottery was announced.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated, however, such claims may not account for other factors, such as expanding eligibility to adolescents.

Boston University School of Medicine researchers analyzed Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” lottery results after media reports suggested the initiative proved successful and other states launched their own lotteries, including Louisiana.

Against a backdrop of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data trends, researchers determined vaccines occurred at similar rates in states without lotteries, prompting the conclusion that lottery incentives are “ineffective and expensive.”

Study authors said increasing vaccination rates is a critical public health issue, though other interventions are needed to curb the pandemic.

“It is important to rigorously evaluate strategies designed to increase vaccine uptake, rapidly deploy successful strategies, and phase out those that do not work,” Walkey said.

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