A shot for a shot: Ohio to hold million-dollar lottery for vaccinated residents

Not just one lottery but five lotteries, actually — a million bucks each Wednesday for five straight weeks starting May 26th. And there’ll be a separate lottery for vaccinated teenagers, awarding the winner full tuition, room and board, and books to the Ohio state university of their choice.


We’ve arrived at the stage of national decadence where saving your own life and protecting those around you isn’t enough of an incentive for people to get a free miracle drug.

Kudos to DeWine and his staff for grasping that we’ve reached that stage, though. While other governors continue to rely on experts to explain in painstaking detail the scientific and moral benefits of vaccination to skeptics, this guy’s lunging right for the American lizard brain: “You wanna lottery ticket?” Watch, then read on.

I’m imagining how the sales pitch to a vaccine holdout might go:

“Are you getting vaccinated?”
“Nah. The odds of me getting COVID are like a thousand to one.”
“If you do it I’ll enroll you in a lottery with odds of a million to one.”
“Sign me up.”

Vaccine lotteries are a good idea because the unvaccinated are bad at calculating probability by definition.

Before you pass judgment on Ohio’s scheme, two graphs for you to chew on. One comes from Gallup:

Americans are letting down their guards, and it’s a cinch based on what we know from other polling that a lot (if not most) of those Americans are unvaccinated. If you want to prevent a surge in infections among people who haven’t had their shots, right now is the moment to get them motivated to go get vaxxed. Dangling a chance at a life-changing sum of money at them will do that for some.


Which brings us to the other graph:

A thousand bucks per holdout would add up to serious cash potentially — although, given the sort of astronomical sums the feds have already disbursed to fight COVID, maybe not that serious in the grand scheme of things. At $1,000 per head, we could potentially get another 100 million people vaccinated for $100 billion, a small fraction of the COVID relief bill. But if we did that then we’d have an equity problem. People who got vaccinated eagerly without needing a payoff might be willing to look the other way at giving holdouts $50 to take the plunge, but a grand would be a different story.

Maybe we could give all vaccinated people a $1,000 credit on next year’s taxes to level the playing field? That wouldn’t work as well as a savings bond or cash in hand would, though, and it would require taxpayers to prove to the IRS that they got their shots.

Assuming we’re not in fact prepared to pay holdouts $1,000 each, a much cheaper way to create a “large financial incentive” for them to get their shots is … a lottery. If DeWine’s gambit tempts, say, 50,000 holdouts in Ohio into getting vaxxed, he’ll have bought them all off for the equivalent of a hundred bucks each. If 100,000 are tempted, it’s 50 bucks each. The lottery, as always, is just a gimmick to camouflage what’s actually a very small financial incentive probability-wise by making it seem like a much larger one.


Frankly, we should take, say, $500 million in federal COVID relief money and hold a couple of national vaccine Powerball lotteries. The bigger the prize, the more holdouts will be lured into participating. A shot for a shot (to win)!

Here’s DeWine defending the plan on Fox this morning. If Ohio sees a surge of vaccinations in the next few weeks, other states are destined to follow their lead.

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