Cash Prizes Don’t Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates, Penn Study Finds
The results of the Philly Vax Sweepstakes contest are in: it wasn’t a bullet in the arm for the city’s stagnant COVID-19 vaccination rates earlier this summer, not even in neighborhoods where residents were more likely to win cash prizes of up to $ 50,000.
University of Pennsylvania researchers who designed, funded, and studied the raffle concluded in a research paper project that the jackpot offering doesn’t work. Policymakers, they wrote, would do better to seek “more effective ways to encourage immunization.”
Mayor Jim Kenney, who announced the incentives in early June with a do no harm, help attitude, was equally philosophical about the results.
“While it’s disappointing that the raffle didn’t do more to encourage vaccinations, I’m so happy that this program and other incentives have motivated some people to get vaccinated,” Kenney said in a report. E-mail. “We will continue to look for ways to encourage residents to reach out to the more than 808,000 Philadelphians who are fully immunized. Whatever your motivation, know that vaccines are the best and safest way to get through this deadly and unpredictable pandemic. “
Across the country, state and local governments have launched vaccine lotteries – some with grand prizes in six or even seven digits – to entice hesitant people to roll up their sleeves. Vaccinating the vast majority of a population is the only hope of quelling the pandemic, public health experts agree.
The effectiveness of these lotteries has been mixed at best, and often difficult to interpret. For example, Ohio called its Vax-A-Million program a “smash hit” and two research teams agreed with the opinion, but two other teams concluded exactly the opposite.
It is difficult to prove an increase in lottery-related vaccinations, especially if neighboring jurisdictions without a lottery are also seeing increasing trends. Other factors such as targeted vaccination clinics or door-to-door outreach – or soon, vaccination mandates – may be the driving forces.
To get more precise data, the Penn researchers added an experimental component to the Philly Vax competition, essentially stacking the game in favor of residents into three randomly chosen zip codes with high poverty rates and low vaccination rates. Half of the winners were drawn from those zip codes alone, with the rest of the winners selected elsewhere in town.
This gave people in zip codes with low immunization rates about 73 times a chance of winning, provided they’ve already had at least one injection.
The stakes were high: six prizes of $ 1,000, four prizes of $ 5,000 and two prizes of $ 50,000 were awarded in each of the three draws. In theory, the unvaccinated would imagine getting a call telling them they had won, and then being disqualified for not being vaccinated. This would encourage them to get vaccinated immediately to avoid such an unfortunate situation.
So-called regret lotteries have been used to motivate weight loss, exercise and adherence to medical treatments, but most of the studies have been small, noted the Penn researchers, led by the Wharton professor. School, Katherine Milkman.
Since the success of the incentive in Philadelphia hinged on unvaccinated residents being aware of their potential windfall, the raffle was heavily publicized and promoted. The Inquirer, other newspapers and broadcast media all published articles. Residents were encouraged to actively enroll in the program online or by phone, although researchers also had a city-wide commercial database.
Ultimately, the city-wide results showed a slight initial increase in vaccinations in Philly compared to surrounding counties, but this was not supported.
Of the three postal codes with low vaccination rates, only one experienced a brief increase over the 17 “control” postal codes.
“When pooling our data across the three zip codes, we don’t detect any significant changes,” the Penn researchers wrote.
When the raffle was launched, about 67% of adults in Philadelphia had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to city data. But the disparities were obvious. In the three under-vaccinated postal codes, the rates were less than 40%.
Now, city data shows that about 80% of Philadelphians have had at least one injection, but five zip codes still had less than 40% of their residents fully or partially vaccinated at the start of the month – rates comparable to those in Louisiana and Arkansas.