Massachusetts Spent $6.5 Million On Coronavirus Vaccine Lotteries; It Was A Waste, New Study Shows

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts spent more than $6.5 million on a program to try to get more people vaccinated against coronavirus.

It was a dud, a new study shows.

Massachusetts was one of 19 states to implement a coronavirus vaccine lottery over the summer. The concept was this:  give people the chance to win a big cash prize and more people will get vaccinated against the virus.

It’s something that 19 states attempted, but the programs were highly ineffective, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed JAMA Health Forum.

The study found that there was essentially “zero difference” in vaccination rates.

Andrew Friedson, associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver, who co-authored the study, said that states need to do something different the next time they want to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“Statistically speaking, our research points to a disappointing outcome — that is, there was no significant association found between a cash-drawing announcement and the number of vaccinations administered after the announcement date,” Friedson said in a written statement. “This shows a clear need to reassess how we are encouraging individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The study — conducted by Friedson and academics from Bentley University, San Diego State University, and the University of Oregon — looked at the coronavirus vaccination rates before and after the vaccine lotteries in the 19 states where they took place and compared the data to the rest of the country.

“This study is critically important as it gives us a chance to course correct and design better incentive policies,” Friedson said. “While other studies have examined the effectiveness of a single lottery, such as Ohio’s ‘Vax-a-Million,’ which leaves open the possibility that other lotteries might have done a better job, our research looks at how ALL state lotteries to-date have performed in tandem. This allows for a nationally applicable take on what works (or in this case, what doesn’t work) to encourage vaccinations.”

Friedson also said that states should instead offer direct cash payments or guaranteed prizes for those who get vaccinated if they want to encourage vaccination.

He also said that he thinks the vaccine-hesitant are largely swayed that way due to misinformation about vaccines, so incentives likely won’t work on them.

“Drawings were not, by any means, an informative vaccine promotional strategy,” said Friedson in the written statement. “It’s 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.”

Massachusetts held five weekly coronavirus vaccine lotteries between July and August at the behest of Governor Charlie Baker. The state gave away five $1 million prizes to adults 18 and older. It also gave five $300,000 college scholarships to minors between 12 and 17 years old. That’s $6.5 million in prizes alone, not counting the cost of promoting and administering the program.

The press office of Governor Baker could not be reached for comment on Sunday or Monday this week.


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