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State-led vaccine lotteries didn't boost vaccination rates, study shows

African Americans receiving more vaccinations
African Americans receiving more vaccinations 05:30

Those state-led vaccine lotteries that cropped up last spring and summer did nothing to sway unvaccinated individuals to get inoculated against COVID-19, new research shows. 

A variety of prizes — including cash, trucks and guns — were dangled in front of vaccine holdouts to try to incentivize more Americans to get jabbed and better control the virus as vaccination rates plateaued in May. 

By the beginning of July, 19 states had announced large cash lotteries tied to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

But they had little to no effect on state residents, according to a study from economists at several universities published in the Jama Health Forum Friday. 

"This looked like a really exciting policy that we were really rooting for when we saw lotteries come out and it's frankly disappointing we weren't able to find any evidence they were capable of moving the needle in this respect," Andrew Friedson, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver and a co-author of the study "Association Between Statewide COVID-19 Lottery Announcements and Vaccinations," told CBS MoneyWatch.  

Friedson and a team of researchers, economists and policy analysts identified 19 different state-led vaccine lotteries and compared states' vaccination rates before and after they made the lottery announcements. They found no uptick in vaccination rates in these states compared to states that did not hold cash prize lotteries. 

"We pulled the data we would need to see if something was going on and we could not find anything going on from this," Friedson said. Effectively, researchers observed "zero difference" in vaccination rates in states that held a lottery versus those that did not.

Perhaps guaranteed cash rewards or other prizes, versus lottery-style drawings, could have been more effective in swaying more Americans to get vaccinated, Friedson theorized.

"It is possible that lottery incentives are not concrete enough and people may react better to cash in hand versus the abstract chance you might win," he explained. 

There are also groups of holdouts who refuse to be vaccinated no matter the incentive. 

So what is the takeaway?

According to Friedson, it's time to move on from tying vaccines to lotteries, if the goal is to encourage more Americans to become inoculated against COVID-19. 

"On this situation we found something didn't work, now it's time to move on and try something else," he said.

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