By Ayana Jones
PHILADELPHIA — A financial incentive has been launched with the goal of motivating Philadelphia residents to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Through the “Philly Vax Sweepstakes,” 36 vaccinated Philadelphians who are 18 and older will win prizes of up to $50,000, totaling nearly $400,000 in giveaways. In each of the three drawings on June 21, July 6 and July 19, six individuals will win $1,000; four will win $5,000 and two will win $50,000.
“This exciting initiative offers an opportunity to reward Philadelphians who have already been vaccinated while also motivating those who haven’t yet,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
“We’re incredibly proud of our extensive efforts to vaccinate our residents and that more than two-thirds of Philadelphia adults have received their first dose. The vaccine is critical to protecting us from COVID-19, getting back to the things we’ve missed, and safely reigniting our economy.”
Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, acting commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said she’s seen the vaccination rates of other cities jump after holding similar lotteries and sweepstakes.
“This program offers that chance to Philadelphia — the chance to get the people who are still thinking about getting vaccinated to come out and get their shots,” she said.
“We are absolutely committed to reaching Philadelphia residents wherever they live and making sure that no one is left behind as we move from a time of fear, sickness and death into the safer future that awaits us,” Bettigole said.
“And that is the reason we’re so excited to be a part of today’s sweepstakes announcement, because every single way to make this process easier and more attractive means more Philadelphians vaccinated and more people safe and protected against this pandemic.”
Financial support for the sweepstakes and related research is being provided by the University of Pennsylvania through the Wharton School, the Behavior Change for Good Initiative, the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, and Flu Lab.
“We designed the sweepstakes to try to encourage as many Philadelphians are possible to get vaccinated but with a particular emphasis on under-vaccinated communities,” said Professor Katy Milkman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
In each of the three sweepstakes drawings, one ZIP code from the 20 ZIP codes in Philadelphia with the lowest vaccination rates as of May 27 will be selected at random for extra prizes.
“The idea is that all Philadelphians have a chance to win but if your ZIP code is selected your chances of winning a prize get a lot bigger,” Milkman said.
For the first sweepstakes drawing on June 21, the selected ZIP code is 19126, which includes parts of East and West Oak Lane in North Philadelphia.
Bettigole said communities where there are low vaccination rates are the same areas that experienced higher hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium will be promoting the sweepstakes in the 20 targeted ZIP codes.
Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, said there is a correlation between these communities not having significant access to testing and contact tracing during the beginning of the pandemic and lower vaccination rates.
“When we talk about prioritizing these ZIP codes, it’s a flip from a year ago because now we’re saying your vaccination rates have been low, we know that your communities have been hurting and we are going to make sure in this instance that we are prioritizing,” she said.
“I think that we all learned a lot from a year ago. Just by doing this a year later demonstrates that and so I’m really looking forward to getting the word out in these priority ZIP codes.”
Residents who would like to participate in the sweepstakes are encouraged to register to guarantee their eligibility: names will be drawn from a pool of those who register as well as those in an existing residential database. Philadelphians whose names are selected will be contacted, and if they are unvaccinated, a new winner will be selected.
People can register online at www.PhillyVaxSweeps.com, by phone at 877-642-5666 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and by texting “Phillyvax” to 215-608-9799.
The sweepstakes launch comes as 721,014 people in Philadelphia have been fully vaccinated and 920,227 have received at least one dose as of June 7, according to city data.
Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.