Rep. Jim Walsh responds to mixed reports on COVID vaccination incentive programs

There are mixed reports from across the nation on the effectiveness of state-managed COVID vaccination incentive programs, like Washington State's lottery-style Shot of a Lifetime.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) found that Ohio's lottery-based incentive program, meant to increase vaccination rates, did not do so. Using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers compared trends in vaccination rates between states like Ohio that offered a lottery reward, to other states in the U.S. that did not have an incentive lottery program.

Allan J. Walkey, MD, MSc, professor of medicine at Boston Medical Center and corresponding author of the BUSM analysis, had this to say about their conclusions:

“Our results suggest that state-based lotteries are of limited value in increasing vaccine uptake. Therefore, the resources devoted to vaccine lotteries may be more successfully invested in programs that target underlying reasons for vaccine hesitancy and low vaccine uptake,” said Walkey.

Irwin Redlener, who directs the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University, recently told Politico, a political news magazine, that:

“It's just not working. People aren't buying it. The incentives don't seem to be working—whether it's a doughnut, a car, or a million dollars,” concluded Redlener.

These reports differ from Washington State Governor's Jay Inslee's assertion that an additional 30,000 people have been vaccinated since the start of his incentive program, an increase of 24%.

But a closer look at the data reveals that it's based on several assumptions. Rates were already declining before the announcement of the incentive program. In Washington state, estimates were used on falling vaccination rates and then compared to the actual number of people receiving shots.

After reviewing these conflicting reports, Washington State Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, released the following statement:

“The governor's best guess isn't the best science. How did he reach the opposite conclusion of actual scientists using real data at Columbia and Boston University? By using a convoluted set of assumptions and estimates designed to produce the results he wants.

“COVID vaccine lotteries don't work. Real scientists at Columbia and Boston University, doing rigorous research, have reached this solid conclusion.

“Since the Shot of a Lifetime program was introduced, many of us have been making the same point as the scientists at Columbia and Boston Universities—prizes and games are not the answer.

“Clearly the push to get vaccinated is unprecedented. If the governor's bureaucrats want to convince people to take one of the COVID shots, they should focus their efforts on rational persuasion. Prize schemes and partisan rants, like calling Trump supporters a 'bioreactor facility,' as if they are the only individuals choosing not to get vaccinated, are not the right approach.”


Washington State House Republican Communications