Study: COVID-19 vaccine lotteries not effective

Researchers say Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” lottery wasn’t associated with an increased number of vaccinations.

Lottery-based COVID-19 vaccination pushes are ineffective at increasing vaccination rates.

According to a news release, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) specifically looked at Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” initiative which coaxed patients aged 12 to 17 years old to get the shot in exchange for a chance to win a full-ride college scholarship and patients over 18 to get vaccinated for a shot at $1 million.

The program received recognition shortly after introduction as media reports claimed it increased Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccination rates. This led other states to adopt some form of the lottery, but the researchers say the reports weren’t accurate because they failed to account for other changes to the country’s vaccination landscape at the time.

"However, prior evaluations of the Ohio vaccine incentive lottery did not account for other changes in COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States, such as those that may have been due to expansion of vaccination to ages 12-15,"corresponding author Allan J. Walkey, MD, MSc, professor of medicine at BUSM, says in the release.

The researchers looked at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data to evaluate vaccination trends for adults 18 years or older. They then compared the rates before and after the “Vax-a-Million” was introduced in Ohio with those in states that did not introduce a lottery, according to the release.

"Our results suggest that state-based lotteries are of limited value in increasing vaccine uptake," Walkey says. “Therefore, the resources devoted to vaccine lotteries may be more successfully invested in programs that target underlying reasons for vaccine hesitancy and low vaccine uptake. It is important to rigorously evaluate strategies designed to increase vaccine uptake, rapidly deploy successful strategies, and phase out those that do not work."