Vax For Nothing: State lotteries didn’t encourage COVID jabs | Monday Morning Coffee

Cash drawings and additional vaccinations said to have ‘near zero’ association, a new study has found

October 18, 2021 6:51 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Not even the lure of riches was enough to convince vaccine-hesitant and vaccine-skeptical Americans to get the COVID-19 jab, according to a newly published study that examined the states that held vaccine lotteries earlier this year.

In fact, there was a “near zero” association between those cash drawings and additional vaccinations in states like Colorado, which held five drawings among vaccinated individuals for a $1 million prize, Colorado Newsline, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Starreported late last week.

“We were really excited when we saw these policies come out and were really hopeful that they were going to be effective, and they just turned out not to be,” Andrew Friedson, an associate economics professor at University of Colorado Denver and one of the authors of the study, told Newsline.

As Newsline reports, Friedson and his fellow researchers examined vaccination rates before and after the announcement of a lottery in 19 states, and then compared those rates to those in non-lottery states.

The bottom line: There was little to no association between the lottery announcement and the number of vaccines administered after that announcement date, indicating that the lottery strategy was ineffective, Newsline reported.

Ohio was the first state to announce its Vax-a-Million lottery on May 12, and other states followed its lead.

The states included in the study were Arkansas, Colorado, California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia, Newsline reported.

Pennsylvania was not among the states offering cash incentives for vaccination, instead relying on Keystone Staters’ sense of ‘responsibility’ and civic-mindedness to get the jab, PennLive reported. That decision was announced back in May. The state only passed its 70 percent vaccination threshold last week.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

Officials in Philadelphia, which also went the vaccine lottery route, didn’t have much luck either, WHYY-FM reported in August, citing research by the University of Pennsylvania.

“We’re at a stage in the pandemic where this research, and the mixed result coming from the state lotteries, are starting to tell a story that maybe this isn’t the best tool to use for those remaining people,” Linnea Gandhi, a Ph.D. student at Penn’s Wharton School, and the report’s lead author told WHYY-FM.

States, such as Colorado, spent millions of dollars in federal stimulus money to underwrite their lotteries — with very little return on investment, Newsline reported. The goal was to help lottery-sponsoring states reach the 70 percent vaccinated threshold.

“Any dollar that you spend on something that doesn’t work is a dollar that you could have been spending on something that does,” Friedson told Newsline. “So this is, across all the different states, tens of millions of dollars that we could have been spending on potentially more effective policies.”

The study should help public health officials make better decisions in the future, Friedson told Newsline.

“We see a policy that seems really exciting,” Friedson told Newsline. “Step one is to find out if it works. If it doesn’t work, step two is to find out why and find out what we can do instead that might work better.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

Despite being locked in the house for months, nearly a quarter of Americans haven’t read a book in the past yearCassie Miller reports in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro says he’s not stepping down from his day job while he pursues the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022, Stephen Caruso reports.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s governing board has approved a $550 million request to help with its redesign, Marley Parish reports.

A Philadelphia attorney is sticking with his challenge to a statewide anti-bias rule that would prohibit attorneys from engaging in harassment or discrimination due to LGBTQ status and other protected categories, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Via our sibling site, the Minnesota Reformer, a Census worker says participating in the nation’s decennial head count reminded him of what America is all about. And reguar contributor Denny Bonavita wants to thank you — and your tax dollars — for providing his son, who lives with Down syndrome, with a good quality of life.

En la Estrella-Capital: Tenemos que seguir distribuyendo todas las vacunas de manera equitativa y garantizar que la protección de los bebés contra el VSR.

(Image via The Philadelphia Gay News)


A recently filed lawsuit claims a Bucks County school district’s mask mandate is a ‘Satanic ritual.’ But a representative from the Church of Satan tells PhillyMag that’s ‘simply untrue.’

Mental Illness Awareness Week may have recently ended — but these resources, courtesy of our friends at The Incline, are handy any time.

Need new wheels? The state will auction off more than 300 vehicles later this month, PennLive reports.

With fewer people masking and practicing social distancing, public health officials in the Lehigh Valley are worried about the coming flu season, the Morning Call reports.

Only 47 percent of kids aged 15-19 in Luzerne County are fully vaccinated, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

Police in Lancaster responded to a reported shooting at the Park City Mall on Sunday, LancasterOnline reports.

Some Democratic lawmakers are calling for a halt in construction of the Mariner East pipeline after its parent company was charged by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today. The House is out through Oct. 25.
10 a.m., 8E-A East Wing: Senate Majority Policy Committee
12 p.m., Harrisburg Hilton: Pa. Press Club luncheon with House  Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia.
12:30 pm., 8E-A East Wing: Senate Education Committee
1 p.m., Stroudsburg, Pa.: House Democratic Policy Committee
Call of the Chair: Senate Appropriations Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
11 a.m.: Luncheon for Sen. Judy Ward
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward
Hit both events in today’s WardAPalooza, and give at the max, and you’re out a mere $7,500.

Gov. Tom Wolf holds a 1 p.m. news conference in the Capitol Media Center to announce legislation strengthening protections against sexual assault and violence on campus.

Heavy Rotation
For your Monday, here’s some new-ish music from John Mayer. It’s ‘Last Train Home.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
After an early scare, Spurs got past Newcastle 3-2 on Sunday afternoon, and Newcastle gaffer Steve Bruce says his fate is out of his hands after the loss, The Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.