To incentivize vaccine-hesitant Albertans to get immunized against COVID-19, the Alberta government has introduced a $3 million lottery, which will feature three prizes worth $1 million each. Only vaccinated adults will be eligible for the draw.
According to Premier Jason Kenney, the first draw winner will be announced on the first day of Stage 3 of Alberta’s reopening plan, while the second draw will be held Aug. 31. The third and final draw has a tentative date of Sept. 30.
The lottery – which our newsroom has started referring to as ‘Lotto Vax’ – follows in the footsteps of state governments in the United States, which have offered similar cash incentives to convince non-vaccinated residents to get their shots.
Critics of the lottery immediately said doling out $3 million in taxpayer money to three individuals is a poor allocation of government funds. Others expressed disappointment the prize money will potentially be won by someone whose only reason for getting their COVID-19 vaccine is a cash incentive.
The reason for launching this lottery seems clear enough. After weeks of rapidly increasing vaccination numbers, the demand for first doses recently started to wane. As of press time, Alberta was just tenths of a percentage point away from reaching its target of a 70 per cent first-dose vaccination rate, which is needed to launch Stage 3 of its reopening plan in two weeks. That hurdle will likely be surpassed by the time you’re reading this.
Regardless if you support the vaccine lottery or not, a bump in first doses as a result of this cash incentive will ultimately benefit the province as a whole, as it means more people will be vaccinated.
While we wish it didn’t take a taxpayer-funded lottery to incentivize people to do the right thing, one could argue that all is well that ends well. The government could spend that $3 million on extra advertising or marketing for its vaccine rollout. Would that be as effective? It’s hard to say, but probably not.