Gov. Kate Brown’s plan for using a lottery giveaway to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine got praise and criticism.
It may encourage some people to get vaccinated for a shot at the $1,000,000 grand prize or one of the $10,000 prizes awarded in each county. There’s even a special drawing for Oregon residents aged 12 to 17 who had a shot. There will be five $100,000 contributions to Oregon College Savings Plan accounts in their names.
The Take Your Shot, Oregon campaign also was criticized for being wasteful and “the worst lottery odds in human history.” Actually the odds of winning the grand prize in Oregon’s vaccination lottery, while very small, are an order of magnitude better than winning any of the national grand prize lotteries.
The vaccine lottery is a prized-based social policy. It tries to feed off the lure of a lottery prize to give people a nudge to do something. Many people are eager to spend a few bucks or more every week to buy lottery tickets. There’s usually only an incremental chance of winning big. What the ticket buys is the opportunity to dream big.
The lottery prize idea has been used as a way to encourage people to save money. Some people don’t have enough money set aside for emergency expenses. So what if you gave people a prize if they did?
Credit unions in Michigan joined forces to offer prizes to people who saved money and kept it there for a year. There were smaller prizes and a $100,000 grand prize. People wouldn’t necessarily lose anything and could win an outsize prize.
Savings made exciting. Getting vaccinated made more exciting. What’s so wrong with that? Of course it would be better if such incentives weren’t necessary. And maybe they aren’t necessary. They don’t seem wasteful if they encourage more people to save or help bring the pandemic to an end.