To accelerate the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, the province of Alberta has launched a lottery for anyone 18 and older who has had the first dose of the jab where they could win $1 million.
Premier Jason Kenney revealed that the Open for Summer Lottery would dish out three separate $1-million prizes.
“Now your vaccine shot is also your shot at becoming a millionaire,” he remarked in an interview held outside the Edmonton Expo Centre Monday. The premier also took his public push to social media to get the word out about the incentive and share a few details.
Registration for the lottery can be performed online and will end a week after the province manages to immunize 70% of its eligible population with a single dose. Kenney stated that, to date, 68.7% of eligible Albertans had already gotten the first shot.
The full eligibility criteria are that you must be an Alberta resident when the draw happens, you need to be 18 or older, and you have to supply proof that you’ve had the first dose of an approved vaccine to Alberta Health Services.
The exciting bit
The first $1 million winner will be declared when Stage 3 of Alberta’s Open for Summer plan kicks off and the other two $1 million lotteries will be run during the summer. Kenney revealed the second $1 million prize will be announced in August and the third in late September.
The province revealed that only one entry is required for all three draws.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that further inducements are being considered for Albertans aged from 12 to 17 who are not eligible for the lotteries and that details on these would be announced shortly.
“We are spending this money to ensure widespread immunity that benefits every Albertan,” he explained.
Dr Noel Gibney, the co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee, said that the lottery is aimed at swaying those who are undecided about this vaccination.
He added that a repeat of the lottery in August would go a long way towards motivating people to get their second doses, offering everyone better protection against the Delta variant and minimizing the chances of a fourth wave.
“It really is important that they put as much effort into getting people their second doses, as they are now putting, appropriately, into the first doses,” he concluded.
Does enticement work?
Dr Bradley Ruffle, the academic director of the McMaster Decision Science Laboratory at McMaster University admitted that the lottery is, overall, a good way to inspire people into action, but that in his opinion, it is far from the most effective way to get the vaccination rates up.
“I think it’s a decent idea. As an economist, I certainly believe that financial incentives can change people’s behaviour, but I think it’s about the fifth-best idea you can think of to increase vaccination rates,” he said.
In Ruffle’s opinion, the best strategy would have been an opt-out option early on in the vaccination rollout process.
“When the vaccines were first developed and while we were still waiting for them to be approved by Health Canada, the government already starts to begin booking appointments for every adult Canadian. So you get a phone call or a letter telling you to go to such and such a place on a specified date and time to get your first vaccine dose. You, of course, have the option to cancel your appointment if you really don’t want to go, but that, of course, requires some effort,” Ruffle elaborated in a radio interview.
“I wouldn’t expect it to work on the anti-vaxxers who have the strong ideology, but those who are on the fence or those who are just disorganized and can’t get their act together, maybe are confused, maybe don’t know how to use the computer to book their appointment, you get it booked for you. The idea here is just to make it easier. I think making it easier for people would be more effective than any of these financial incentives,” he continued.
Ruffle also proposed that the lottery route could be more effective by rather offering numerous, smaller prizes, allowing more people to win with the program. He gave the example of 1,000 smaller prizes of $1,000.
“It still totals up to the same $1 million in prizes, but it would be more effective. And the way to conduct such a lottery would be to have these 1,000 prizes at $1,000 each, having such a lottery every day, where, for instance, you announce 10 $1,000 prize winners publicly,” he said.
“It would be likely after a number of days that already just about every Albertan would know at least someone who has won one of these $1,000 prizes. “It makes the lottery more real, more salient. It’s not this pie-in-the-sky, one chance in almost four million to win the big prize,” he concluded.
Sticking to the plan
Health minister Shandro responded, explaining that the province had considered many alternatives when planning the financial incentives, including a larger number of smaller prizes.
He stated that consultation with experienced lottery operators, including Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis was conducted, and the feedback was that three prizes worth $1 million each would have the most effect.
“If we had three prizes of $1 million each, then that was going to be enough for us to get enough folks to register for this lottery,” Shandro said.
“We did consult lottery experts and this is what they recommended. The big prizes get more interest,” Kenney added.
NDP Member of the Legislative Assembly, David Shepherd, poured cold water on Kenney’s original social media announcement of the lottery, calling it “botched” and saying that it only caused confusion, but he toned down his critical stance to say that the NDP supports any effort to increase the vaccination rate.
“A lottery is worth a try,” he conceded.
68.7% of eligible Albertans 12 and older have received their first dose as of 12 June and the province revealed that as of June 13, 60,429 first-dose vaccine appointments were booked for the next seven days.
The province expects to reach the 70% milestone for first doses on June 18, allowing it to initiate Stage 3 of its reopening plan two weeks later on July 2. Kenney stated that only around 48,361 first-dose appointments remain before the 70% threshold is reached.
The Edmonton Expo Centre is currently offering walk-in vaccinations for people who haven’t had the first shot.
Walk-ins are available in Hall C on Tuesday, June 15 from 12:30 to 18:45, Wednesday, June 16 from 09:00 to 16:00, Thursday, June 17 from 12:30 to 18:45, Friday, June 18 from 09:00 to 16:00, and on Saturday, June 19 from 09:00 to 16:00.
Any Albertan 12 and older can receive the first dose and those who have already received their dose in April or earlier may book for their second jab.