Sandeep Goyal
May 24, 2021

Blog: Will New York's ‘Vax and Scratch’ programme with a US$ five million jackpot work?

The author analyses the 'Vax and Scratch' initiative and figures whether something similar can work in India

Blog: Will New York's ‘Vax and Scratch’ programme with a US$ five million jackpot work?
Governor Cuomo of New York last week announced a new ‘Vax and Scratch’ programme providing lottery tickets for prizes up to US$5 million. In the war against ‘vaccine hesitancy’, this huge incentivisation is the newest shot from the marketing arsenal. What are the headlines of the programme?
 
- Individuals Vaccinated at One of 10 State Mass Vaccination Sites in NY Will Receive a Free $20 NYS Lottery Scratch-off Ticket
- The New Vax Sites Are Located in Central New York, Finger Lakes, Long Island, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, New York City and Western New York Regions
- The Sites Are Open to Walk-ins and Appointments From May 24 to May 28; All Sites Open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
 
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York emphasised in specific that the funds being deployed in the lottery linked vaccination drive will not impact education funding. The outlay obviously is substantial.
 
“We know that vaccinations are the vital piece of the puzzle we need to crush COVID once and for all," Governor Cuomo said.
 
"We're doing everything we can to make getting a vaccine as quick and easy as possible, but as vaccination rates slow across the state, we're going to have to get creative to put even more shots in arms. This new pilot programme will offer a greater incentive for New Yorkers to get vaccinated by offering a free scratch-off ticket for a chance to win up to $5 million. The more New Yorkers we can get vaccinated, the better our situation and the faster we can return to a new normal, so I encourage everyone who hasn't been vaccinated yet to go to your nearest site and get the shot.”
 
The ticket, which is sold by retailers across the state for US$20, will be provided free to individuals 18+ who take their first dose of Pfizer or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at one of the sites. The sites are open to both walk-ins and appointments. The payouts are as follows: 
 

1st

$5,000,000

2nd

$50,000

3rd

$20,000

4th

$5,000

5th

$2,000

6th

$500

7th

$400

8th

$200

9th

$100

10th

$50

11th

$40

12th

$30

13th

$20

 
Has Governor Cuomo hit a Big Idea in the overcoming of ‘vaccine hesitancy’? The answer may lie in examining why Cuomo brought out lottery as a master-weapon. As of last week, 63% of adult New Yorkers and 51% of all New Yorkers had received at least one dose of vaccine, with 54% of adult New Yorkers and 43% of all New Yorkers now fully vaccinated. But the way forward seems significantly uphill. 
 
In the US, nearly 280 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered so far. Overall, about 160 million (48.2 per cent of the population) people have received at least one dose and about 126 million (38.1 per cent of the population) people have been fully vaccinated. Since the vaccination drive started in the US, the number of doses administered daily peaked on April 1, when over 4 million doses were administered. But since reaching the peak, the pace of vaccination has slowed down. On May 17, for instance, about 1.3 million doses were administered. Therefore, some states in the country are now adopting strategies that incentivise people to get vaccinated. 
 
To be fair, Governor Cuomo was not the first to conceive the lottery idea. Lottery winning as a vaccination bait was announced by him a week after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine detailed his “Vax-a-Million” promotion that will give a US$1 million prize each week for five weeks in a lottery for residents aged 18 and older who have gotten at least one coronavirus inoculation. The first winner will be revealed on May 26, and then winners will be announced each Wednesday until June 23. A related lottery drawing is open to vaccinated Ohioans age 12 to 17, with five winners each landing a full four-year scholarship to an Ohio state university. With the total attendance cost for an in-state student at more than US$24,000 each year, according to the university website, each four-year scholarship is worth more than US$96,000.
 
In fiscal 2018, Americans spent US$77.7 billion on various lotteries, up about US$5 billion from 2017. So lotteries are a serious pastime for Americans. Lotteries have a long history of being deployed as an instrument for ‘public good’. Most efforts, hitherto, have been for fund raising though. In fact the proceeds of most state lotteries in the US are used largely to support education.
 
But using the lottery as an incentive to get vaccinated is surely a new one. And all eyes are focused on Ohio and New York.
 
Can something similar work in India? Can a free lottery ticket become an incentive for Indians to get vaccinated? Honestly, I have my doubts.
 
While lotteries are widespread in India too, they are not really as mainstream as in the US. They are perceived to be a lower SEC indulgence, with heavy overtones of gambling. There is some degree of social stigma attached to them in almost every geography of the country – somewhere more, somewhere less.  Officially only 13 states out of 28 allow lottery in India. So the Cuomo model from New York of dangling the lottery ticket as a bait may not work in India. It would have big costs for sure, but not much significant benefits. But the DeWine model from Ohio offering study scholarships may work a wee bit better. Even that may not be a strong enough attraction. Let us wait, watch, evaluate, and emulate New York and Ohio if their lotteries and scholarships work!
 
The author is managing director at Rediffusion. 
 
Source:
Campaign India

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