RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With much fanfare and hope to reach herd immunity, North Carolina launched its vaccine lottery earlier this year. Did the possibility of winning $1 million or a college scholarship motivate the unvaccinated?
Researchers who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the effect of the vaccine lottery to be near zero in every state that had one, including North Carolina.
“When we looked at the timing of announcements for these vaccine lotteries, we tested for whether or not there was a change or uptick in vaccination rates and we found vaccination rates remained essentially stable. Our point estimate would be 0 percent. You know, that there was effectively no change at all,” said University of Oregon economics professor Benjamin Hansen.
Hansen co-wrote Association Between Statewide COVID-19 Lottery Announcements and Vaccinations with Andrew Friedson of the University of Colorado-Denver and economist and professor Dhaval Dave. The researchers compared data provided by Johns Hopkins University to reach their conclusions.
UNC professor of psychiatry Jonny Gerkin reacted to the study by saying vaccine lotteries may have had the opposite effect on those who were already skeptical.
“I think a lot of folks have kind of made up their mind, and then when something like this comes along, it might actually bolster their view of, you know, why would they want to pay me to get something that’s supposedly healthy to get?” Gerkin said.
He also pointed to a messaging problem that started in the early stages of COVID-19 vaccines and false information on social media.
“Most of the time, it’s not that there’s a lot of conspiratorial belief or this sort of thing. It’s just that there hasn’t been real clear messaging around it. There’s been a lot of different messages. Social media has such a broad reach,” Gerkin said.
“If they can see it’s not just for them, but for the folks that they care about to help them not be exposed and explaining to them, look, this doesn’t keep you from getting it for sure. It does decrease the odds of you getting it, but it greatly, greatly improves your odds of not getting seriously ill. If you don’t end up in the hospital, that allows the hospitals to continue to take care of all the folks that have other diseases that are life-threatening.”
Despite his team’s findings, Hansen applauded states for trying but hopes this is a lesson.
“When you find something doesn’t work, then you want to turn to something else that might work better.”