Manitoba hopes to spur COVID-19 vaccination through a lottery offering nearly $2 million in cash and scholarships to those who roll up their sleeve for the shots.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries CEO Manny Atwal announced the lottery Wednesday morning.
“Vaccination is the fastest way to overcome COVID-19 and safely restore our services and activities,” said Pallister in a release.
“Urgency is important. We need Manitobans to get vaccinated to protect each other and protect our health-care system. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can get our lives back. This lottery gives Manitobans even more reasons to roll up their sleeves – not once, but twice.”
Pallister said the province plans on holding two lottery draws over the summer, and all Manitobans aged 12 and up who have received at least one dose of vaccine on or before Aug. 2 will be eligible for the first draw.
The second draw will be open to everyone 12 and up who’ve received two doses on or before Sept. 6.
The province says each lottery draw will award:
- three prizes of $100,000 in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (excluding Churchill);
- a $100,000 prize in each of the remaining regional health authorities: Prairie Mountain Health, Southern Health–Santé Sud, Interlake–Eastern Regional Health Authority and Northern Regional Health Authority (including Churchill); and
- 10 draws for $25,000 scholarships for young people aged 12 to 17 across the province, for a total of $250,000.
All Manitobans who have been immunized with either a first or second dose are automatically entered into the lottery for a chance to win, and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries will be responsible for running the contests, Atwal said. A third-party auditor will provide additional oversight, he added.
“Trust and accountability are an integral part of every lottery, and we will ensure that all Manitobans can have confidence in the fairness and integrity of this process,” said Atwal.
“As we have seen in other jurisdictions, lotteries can act as an incentive to encourage vaccination. We are proud of our role in the goal to get as many Manitobans immunized as quickly as possible.”
A provincial website with details of the lottery says Manitobans living outside of the province will still be able to enter the lottery, provided they report their immunizations to Manitoba Health, either through email or their local health office.
The site says members of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, and anyone involved in running the contests and their family members, are not eligible for the lottery.
The province also said there will also be a process to opt out of the lottery, for anyone who doesn’t want to take part.
Michelle Driedger, a professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, said the lottery might encourage people who want a vaccine to get one faster.
“This might be the kind of incentive that’s needed to say, ‘Oh, well I’m going to do this because I have a deadline,'” she said.
However, Driedger said the draw likely won’t be enough to encourage those who are vaccine hesitant to book an appointment.
“For them, it may not necessarily have any kind of impact and it does run the risk of potentially creating greater distrust in the vaccine,” Driedger said. “It’s almost like we’re trying to buy your conviction to come in and do this.”
Driedger also noted that launching a lottery to boost vaccination rates could inadvertently send the wrong message to Manitobans.
“It does set up a precedent for, ‘Is this going to become a more regular occurrence? Is this how the government tries to convince Manitobans to do other things that they maybe are slow to commit to?” she said. ”
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The Opposition New Democrats questioned how the Progressive Conservative government found nearly $2 million for prizes at a time when hospitals are struggling to keep up with COVID-19 patients, some of whom have been sent to other provinces.
“Mr. Pallister has $2 million for this lottery, but where are the $2 million to help fix our (intensive care units) in our hospitals?” NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked.
On Tuesday Pallister announced his government was launching a new secure immunization card confirming full immunization against COVID-19 that will allow those with two shots to travel within Canada without quarantining on their return and enjoy expanded visits at hospitals and personal care homes.
Pallister left open the possibility of using the cards to also determine access to major sporting events, museums and other facilities.
He said there would be more details on what big-crowd events might be allowed later this week, when his Progressive Conservative government announces its pandemic reopening plan.
Vaccine uptake in Manitoba has been steady — two-thirds of people 12 and older have received at least one dose.
But there are some spots where the rate is much lower, including the core area of Winnipeg and some rural regions south of the capital.
A provincial website tracking vaccination shows immunization rates in southern Manitoba is 47 per cent. In the RM of Stanley, where Winkler and Morden are located, less than 15 per cent of the eligible population has gotten a shot.
The province has also launched a million dollar grant program offering up to $20,000 to groups with plans to reach vaccine hesitant people in their community.
–With files from The Canadian Press
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