The vaccination lottery is needed in the United States, but at what cost?

University scholarships, scratch tickets, checks for a million dollars … States spend fortunes to encourage Americans to be vaccinated.

“Get vaccinated at the Stade de France, and have a chance to win 1 million euros”. It’s hard to imagine such a slogan and such a process in France. In the United States,  however, “vaccination lotteries” are increasing everywhere. The latest initiative of this kind comes from California which announced this Thursday, May 27, through the voice of its governor Gavin Newsom that it was putting $ 116 million on the table.

Behind this substantial sum, several prizes are to be won: 10 prizes of 1.5 million dollars, 30 prizes of 50,000 dollars, and finally 2 million gift cards of 50 dollars. The winners will be selected by lottery , a process also used in Colorado, but also in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Oregon. Objective, encourage Americans to be vaccinated against Covid-19  while the vaccination campaign reaches a ceiling.

The total prizes involved vary by state. But the sums often run into tens of thousands of dollars and regularly exceed a million. In New York, in addition to scratch tickets, Governor Andrew Cuomo even put into play university scholarships for 12-17 year olds. In terms of operation, in most cases, people who are vaccinated are automatically included in the list of participants. Above all, to finance these operations, the States dig into their own funds.

States are putting their hands in their pockets

In the case of California, for example, Gavin Newsom explained that tax revenues are expected to exceed initial estimates by at least $ 75 billion by next summer, effectively allowing the state to invest in various programs. In Ohio, the governor decided to spend some of the money received from the federal government under the Federal Care Act. The latter was signed last March to help American states fight against Covid-19.

In  Colorado , where $ 5 million has been put into play, policymakers have decided to dig into the envelope dedicated to promoting vaccination. Again, these funds were provided by Washington. “We believe that this will have a greater impact on the progress of the vaccination than if we broadcast television commercials asking to be vaccinated,” notably assured the Colorado government Jared Polis. An argument also used by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine .

This use of federal funds is obviously not to everyone’s liking. In California, the first opponent of Gavin Newsom, John Cox, has denounced an election operation as a recall ballot is due to take place soon after a petition calling for the revocation of the governor obtained enough votes. “Millions of Californians have lost their jobs. Children sit at home rather than in the classroom. Instead of tackling these problems, Gavin Newsom is spending more than $ 100 million to buy votes before the recall, ”said John Cox in a statement. As the LA Times points out, 115 million dollars, it is also three times more than what the governor proposes for the budget devoted to the department of the protection of forests and the fight against fires.

Others also wonder about the real effectiveness of this type of device. On the Sacbee news site , the professor specializing in economic behavior at the University of San Diego, Uri Gneezy, recalls that the promise of receiving money for a vaccination can also raise suspicion. In Ohio, the Department of Health assures its side that it works and evokes an increase of 28% since the launch of the lottery. 

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