Will North Carolina’s vaccination lottery work?

Gov. Roy Cooper

North Carolina is the latest state to bank on a lottery to reverse flagging COVID-19 vaccinations.

North Carolina joins Ohio, New York, Maryland, Oregon, Colorado, California, New Mexico, West Virginia, and the state of Washington in offering the chance at some serious money or college scholarships in an effort to get more people to roll up their sleeves.

Will it work?

It’s too soon to tell in North Carolina, but some states saw quick upticks in vaccinations after their lottery announcements.

In Ohio, vaccinations increased 55% for 20-49 year-olds the week after Gov. Mike DeWine announced that state’s  lottery, Vax-a-Million, NPR reported. Vaccinations jumped 94% in that week for people ages 16 and 17. Lottery winners in Ohio ages 12-17 get a full ride to Ohio state colleges.

In Colorado, vaccinations increased 17% the day Gov. Jared Polis introduced Colorado Comeback Cash, and then held steady for the next few days until Memorial Day weekend started, a Colorado television station reported. Colorado is giving five people 18 and older $1 million over five weeks.  Coloradans 12-17 years old are in a lottery for five $50,000 college scholarships.

Four people 18 and older in North Carolina will get $1 million each in the Summer Cash lottery. People younger than 18 will be in a drawing for four $125,000 scholarships for use after high school.

Vaccinations in North Carolina peaked the week of April 5 at 685,156 doses administered and dropped steadily since then, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The week of May 31, 134,547 shot were administered. Forty-seven percent of people 12 and older have been vaccinated.

“After seeing the benefit in other states, we believe this program will help get more North Carolinians vaccinated, making our state a safer place for everybody,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Thursday news conference.

The state is trying other incentives, including cash cards.

People who were vaccinated at certain sites on particular days from the last week of May to June 8 in  Guilford, Rowan, Rockingham, and Mecklenburg counties received $25 cash cards. People who drove others to those vaccination sites also received cash cards.

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said Thursday that the cards are meant to help cover the cost of transportation or time away from work.

A DHHS spokeswoman said in an email Thursday that more than 1,700 cards were distributed to vaccine recipients and more than 700 cards were given to drivers.

“More than 40 percent of people said having someone to drive them was a very important reasons that they got vaccinated at a Summer Cash Card event,” she wrote, and 25% said that the cash card was a “very important motivation for getting vaccinated that day.”

Cohen said the cash card program worked to reach underserved communities. “We’re really excited about what we’ve seen,” she said.

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