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UNCC public health professor weighs in on vaccine lottery

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Public health experts are weighing in on the use of a vaccine lottery to encourage more people to get vaccinated in North Carolina.

N.C. is among less than two dozen states in the U.S. that are offering incentives, including cash lotteries, to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

WBTV spoke with UNC Charlotte Public Health Sciences Professor Dr. Beth Racine about this strategy. She says it remains to be seen whether this is effective in encouraging more people to get the vaccine. But according to the North Carolina Governor’s Office, Ohio saw a 28 percent increase in its vaccination rate within two weeks after announcing a vaccine lottery.

WBTV asked Dr. Racine if she felt the lottery was putting pressure on individuals to get the vaccine despite their overall health wishes. She explained that it would be more forceful if the state guaranteed a cash incentive to anyone who gets the vaccine, especially during financially troubling times.

“I think if the incentive was what I would call a bigger stick, something like a couple hundred dollars, I could see where people would feel pressured. Let’s say that they’re really struggling financially and having a big cash incentive would make them feel like I better go and get this because I really need that money,” Dr. Racine explained. “I think a lottery is a nice balance because yes, it’s kind of fun and the chances of winning are tiny … So, I think as far as carrots go, it’s a small carrot. It might get people who are on the fence, who are indifferent about the vaccine, it might make them go and get it because you might win that million dollars.”

Dr. Racine says if the vaccine lottery is successful and cost-effective, we may see the government use this strategy more often.

“I believe that if we see it working, that people will think of this as a strategy before they think of something else. Because at the end of the day, it’s not that expensive for the state government to give away a million dollars. If you had to give away all of the residents $100, it would be a lot more expensive. So, if they realize that it’s a cost-effective way to nudge individuals that’s seen as something that will help the greater good, then it might be adopted more often,” Dr. Racine said.

According to NCDHHS, the Summer Cash Program is being funded by the federal coronavirus relief fund.

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