While Maine is offering an LL Bean gift card and West Virginia is dangling the promise of a $100 savings bond, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is going big – very big – in the vaccination incentive game.
DeWine's Ohio Vax-a-Million promises $1 million prizes to five lucky Ohioans and full-ride college scholarships to five lucky Ohio teens. The hitch: winners must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the drawing. The goal is to push people to get the shot.
We asked two experts their take on it. Zoe McLaren is a health economist at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Dr. David A. Asch leads the Center for Health Care Innovation at University of Pennsylvania.
Here's what they said.
Will a chance at $1 million motivate people to get vaccinated?
Asch: "Yes it will. It’s a human psychological foible that we tend to focus more on the prize and less on the chance of winning that prize. That explains why state lotteries are so popular, even though they return pennies on the dollar."
McLaren: "The lottery motivation leverages people's ability to imagine winning the outcome even if their own chance of winning is relatively small. It will motivate some people for sure, but it's hard to know how many since no one has tried this approach with vaccinations before."
Is this sweepstakes more effective than smaller incentives?
McLaren: "Some people aren't motivated by $100, but have a hard time resisting the chance at a big price. If their name was drawn as a winner and they hadn't gotten vaccinated they might feel a lot of regret."
Asch: "The Ohio design is really quite good. Not only are people attracted to the magnitude of the prize, they can anticipate the regret they will feel if they don’t get vaccinated and then see other people win. ‘That winner could have been me, if only I had been vaccinated.’ That sense of regret—that fear of missing out—is a hugely powerful motivator of behavior. People can easily anticipate feeling regret and they take steps to avoid that feeling. The transactional incentives like direct cash payments or a free hunting or fishing license can be motivating, but they aren’t supercharged with all that we know from human psychology."
Is it fair to include people who were vaccinated before the lottery announcement?
McLaren: "Allowing previously vaccinated people to be included makes it more fair and also rewards those who chose to vaccinate earlier."
Asch: "The idea of entering the previously vaccinated just makes sense to me on fairness grounds."
Is $5 million a good investment?
McLaren: "$5 million might seem like a lot but if you look at all the social and economic benefits we gain from ending the pandemic it seems like a much wiser investment in getting back to normal."
Asch: "You could give each person $100 to get the vaccine or you could offer up five $1 million prizes and another five scholarships at a total cost of less than $6 million. I’d bet on the sweepstakes for getting more people vaccinated and at a lower cost. I can’t wait to find out what happens."