In an effort to encourage residents to get the covid-19 vaccine, states across the U.S. have begun offering prizes and incentives to vaccinated adults ranging from the somewhat sensible to the completely absurd.
New Jersey’s vaccination incentives include free access to state parks, a free glass of wine at certain NJ wineries, and, oddly, a chance at dinner with the governor. In Louisiana, a “shot for a shot” campaign offers people a “free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink” at certain businesses if they can prove they’ve been vaccinated in the past week. West Virginia recently started a weekly lottery drawing where vaccinated residents can be entered to win a combination of “cash, trucks, guns, and scholarships.” And Ohio created “Vax-a-Million,” a lottery in which vaccinated adults can be entered to win one of five $1 million prizes (and vaccinated 12-17-year-olds can win one of five full-ride scholarships to any Ohio state college or university).
This week, Ohio had its first Vax-a-Million winner in the form of an Amazon delivery driver from Toledo named Jonathan Carlyle. And apparently, the chance of winning the cash prize influenced Carlyle’s decision to get the covid-19 vaccine when he did. “I was putting it off a lot because I was working all the time, but I knew that I needed to get it and that I wanted to get it,” Carlyle explained to a local Ohio news outlet on Wednesday. “When [Governor DeWine] announced Vax-a-Million, as soon as I heard that, a few days later I got the Johnson & Johnson shot.”
Ohio took a big swing by spending millions in hopes that the chance of money or scholarships would encourage residents to get the covid-19 vaccine—but it appears that their efforts are working. There’s reportedly been a slight increase in the number of people getting vaccinated since the state started the vaccine lottery. Although it’s easy to understand why people are skeptical of policymakers leaning on a public health strategy that is essentially the grown-up version of the Pizza Hut summer reading program where you earn a personal pan pizza after a certain number of books, it doesn’t seem to be hurting.