Philly announces vaccine contest and lottery of regrets

  • Alan Yu/WHY

Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Philadelphia today announced a vaccine contest, to encourage more people in the city to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

There will be three draws in June and July, the first on June 21. There is a total of $400,000 in giveaways, including cash prizes. Half of the prizes will go to people who live in postcodes with the lowest vaccination rates. The idea is to encourage people, especially in these areas, to get vaccinated. Prize draws are restricted to persons aged 18 and over.

Just over half of all adults in the city have been fully vaccinated so far, according to city data, but vaccination rates vary by zip code and race.

Philadelphia’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, said that although two-thirds of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, “the last third is the hardest to reach for many reasons: they may not have a predictable work schedule, they may have difficulty getting child care, they may have questions about the vaccine, and some people think they will get it, but they had too many priorities besides getting vaccinated.

“Recently, mass vaccination centers in the convention center and Esperanza closed because the days of people willing to show up in their thousands and line up to get vaccinated are over,” he said. she added, saying the city had shifted mass vaccination resources. sites to community and pop-up clinics.

She said the areas of the city with the lowest vaccination rates, where people are most worried about vaccines, are those with the highest COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates.

Dr Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium and a member of the scientific team behind the vaccine lottery, said this correlation is because members of these communities felt left out. account at the start of the pandemic.

“That was… where the devastation was greatest, all we had at the time was testing and contact tracing, and those communities didn’t have meaningful access to that, and so it didn’t bode well. nothing good for trust and relationships,” she said. “When we talk about prioritizing these postcodes, it’s a turnaround from a year ago, because now we’re saying, ‘Hey, your vaccination rates have been low, we know your communities have suffered, and we going to make sure that in this case we give priority. “

The city will hold a regret lottery, which means that people whose names have been drawn, but who have not been vaccinated and therefore cannot win prizes, will be told that they could have won if they had been vaccinated. The lottery will take advantage of people who register online or by phone, as well as an existing database of residents.

The idea of ​​a regret lottery is backed by research, including the work of University of Pennsylvania behavioral scientists Katy Milkman and Dr. Kevin Volpp. Volpp studied the use of regret lotteries to get patients to take their medications on time more than a decade ago.

Milkman and Volpp are part of the research team behind the city lottery, along with Alison Buttenheim, associate professor of nursing and health policy, and Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium. The money for this raffle program comes from the University of Pennsylvania.

Other states across the country, such as California, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia, also have vaccine lotteries.

Volpp says some early data from Ohio shows it’s working, pointing out that for people ages 18 and older, vaccination rates increased 47% after that state launched its COVID-19 vaccine lottery. The increase in the number of people aged 16 to 17 was 94%.

Researchers will study this effort to see if the city should modify the program to include more priority ZIP codes, as well as the usefulness of these lotteries for other cities, states and mass vaccination campaigns.

WHYY is the primary public media station serving the Philadelphia area, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on

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