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Regional Interests

Oregon to offer $1 million lottery drawing for COVID vaccine recipients

Any Oregonian 18 or over who’s received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible on June 28 to win up to $1 million, under an incentive program announced by Gov. Kate Brown on Friday.

The “Take Your Shot Oregon” campaign is a bid to entice enough citizens to get the vaccine that the state can reopen by July 4. Brown has previously said she’d lift most restrictions when 70% of Oregonians 16 and up have received at least one dose.

“My encouragement to Oregonians is take your shot now,” Brown said in a press conference Friday. “We have an opportunity to beat California to reopening the economy if we can get close to 250,000 Oregonians vaccinated in the next few weeks.”

The rules are simple. Oregon will hold a drawing on June 28 and will pull winners randomly from a state database of vaccinated people. One person will win a $1 million grand prize, and one person in each of Oregon’s 36 counties will win $10,000. The prizes will be funded using federal relief money, Brown said.

The state will also offer five $100,000 scholarships through the Oregon College Savings Plan, which will be available to vaccinated students between the ages of 12 and 17. The scholarship program conducted by a third-party company.

The June 28 drawing for cash prizes will be run by the Oregon Health Authority, with assistance from the Oregon Lottery. Lottery officials will not know winners’ identities, to protect patient privacy, Brown’s office said, and winners who don’t want their vaccination status made public could opt out. Anyone who’s received at least one shot by June 27 is eligible.

“We have been in the process of working with the Oregon Health Authority, the Department of Justice and our staff to figure out a game that we could propose and get up in the market very quickly to support those goals,“ Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack told state’s Lottery Commission Friday morning, as he sought approval from the commission to proceed with the plan. “Some of the mechanics we’re still working out.”

The announcement makes Oregon just the latest state to use the potential of a financial windfall to entice hesitant citizens to get vaccinated. In recent days, Ohio, Maryland and New York have all announced their own incentive programs tied to state lotteries, with prizes ranging from $20 to as high as $5 million for New York’s “Vax & Scratch” offering.

Other states, and some private businesses, have introduced more modest incentives. Vaccinated Washingtonians, for instance, now have a chance to snag free beer through the end of June.

There’s evidence that mountains of cash are enough to get people off the fence and into vaccination sites. Preliminary data showed vaccinations increased by 53% in Ohio after Gov. Mike DeWine announced weekly million-dollar drawings.

Oregon’s incentive program comes after Brown tied looser rules on economic reopening efforts to vaccination rates, and as the daily vaccination rate in the state has plummeted in the last month.

From a seven-day average high of nearly 44,000 shots a day in April, the Oregon Health Authority now reports an average of fewer than 27,000 daily vaccines administered. Roughly half of Oregonians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 39% are fully vaccinated, according to state data. About 60% of Oregonians 16 and older have received at least one dose.

Brown said Friday that she was working on an Oregon incentive program before Ohio unveiled its vaccine drawings, but she also acknowledged that she’d cribbed the idea to offer scholarships from DeWine. To set up its incentives, Oregon worked with researchers at Stanford University’s Global Projects Center, who have studied how “gamification” can help people make choices in their own self interest.

Dr. Ashby Monk, the center’s director, said he “might have literally jumped out of the chair I am currently seated in,” when asked by Brown and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Reed to help develop an incentive program.

Monk pointed to studies that have suggested, for example, that people will open bank accounts at high rates if a possible prize is involved. He says Oregon could see between 20% and 40% of unvaccinated, eligible people getting shots as a result of the potential winnings.

“We’ve learned that messaging that is based on fear, such as showing the negative consequences of not doing some action, or even messaging that is sometimes rational … these can struggle to get through to those individuals who are feeling the anxiety and the stress,” Monk said. “We found one tool, surprisingly, is incredibly powerful, and it’s game.”

Even without the new offer, officials say Oregon is well on its way to meeting it’s goal of vaccinating 70% of people 16 and over by the end of July.

“Under all our current scenarios, Oregon is on pace,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen told reporters.

Listen to Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack’s conversation with OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni using the audio player above

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting