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BCFG and CHIBE Help Philadelphia Launch the Philly Vax Sweepstakes 

By June 9, 2021No Comments

Penn’s Center for Health Incentives & Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) and Wharton’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative (BCFG) have helped Philadelphia launch the Philly Vax Sweepstakes, an incentive program to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates among Philadelphia residents.

In a press conference on June 7, 2021, Philadelphia City Mayor Jim Kenney announced the incentive program, which is a series of three drawings over a six-week period with prizes ranging from $1,000 to $50,000. All Philadelphia residents 18 or older are eligible to win, and 36 individuals (who can prove their vaccination status) will win these financial rewards totaling around $400,000. There will be a drawing every two weeks, starting on Monday, June 21, 2021, with 12 winners in each round: two $50,000 winners, four $5,000 winners, and six $1,000 winners. To win, residents must be able to verify they have had their first COVID-19 vaccination dose before the date of the drawing.

The city is using a residential database for automatic entry to include as many Philadelphians in the sweepstakes as possible, but residents are encouraged to sign themselves up using this site (Philly Vax Sweepstakes) to ensure they are included and with the right contact information.

CHIBE and BCFG partnered with the City of Philadelphia, the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and its Founder and Leader Dr. Ala Stanford on this effort. While there are now a number of state vaccine lotteries that have been launched around the country, Philly’s program has some unique features driven by behavioral insights as well as a desire to target the city’s most under-vaccinated communities.

For example, 20 zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates in the city will be prioritized in the sweepstakes. These zip codes are candidates to become the “selected zip code” in each drawing, and half of the winners in every drawing will come from the selected zip code. The zip code will be drawn at random and will be announced two weeks in advance from each drawing. The selected zip code for the first drawing is 19126, and individuals in that zip code will have roughly 100 times the chances of winning prizes in the first drawing compared to other residents outside that zip code.

“The idea is that all Philadelphians have a chance to win, but if your zip code is selected, your chances of winning a prize get a lot bigger,” BCFG Co-Founder, Wharton Professor, and CHIBE affiliate Dr. Katy Milkman said. “We hope learning this will particularly spur excitement in priority zip codes.”

The Philly Vax Sweepstakes also leverages what behavioral scientists call a “regret lottery,” which means Philadelphians might find out that they could have won money if only they had been vaccinated.

“Knowing that can be highly motivating,” Dr. Milkman said. “Imagine the regret you’d feel if you got that call and discovered you could have won $50,000 if only you’d gotten the vaccine.”

The Penn team will be examining whether the incentive program is successful in boosting vaccinations in Philadelphia (compared with surrounding counties) and if the selected zip codes see an extra boost as well.

“The main goal here is to really help the city’s valiant public health efforts and do whatever we can to help get more people vaccinated,” CHIBE Director Dr. Kevin Volpp said. “It will be important, as part of that, to evaluate how well this works, and that will be useful both for our city  in the future if we need to vaccinate people again or for other cities or other states.”

At this point, about half of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated.

“This is incredible, and frankly, Philadelphia’s vaccination rates rank among the top U.S. major cities,” Mayor Kenney said. “…While we’ve made great progress, we still need more folks to get vaccinated before we can put the threat of the pandemic behind us.”

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium will continue to offer vaccines with no appointment needed and is also providing home vaccinations for home-bound residents. In the press conference, Dr. Stanford said the consortium can help people sign up for the sweepstakes while they are in their 15-minute post-vaccine observation period.

Drs. Milkman and Volpp, along with Penn Nursing Professor and CHIBE Scientific Director Dr. Alison Buttenheim, Nobel Laureate and University of Chicago Professor Dr. Richard Thaler, and Penn Psychology Professor and Co-Director of BCFG Angela Duckworth (also a CHIBE affiliate) designed the approach that Philadelphia is taking with the sweepstakes. The team approached the Mayor’s office with the idea, and the city worked with them to facilitate its launch. Funding and related research is provided by Wharton and BCFG, CHIBE, and Flu Lab.

“We are so excited to do this in Philadelphia — in our home city — to make an impact on this community and to be able to move quickly to do this because this has really been a heroic effort by the city to make it possible at warp speed,” Dr. Milkman said.

To learn more, find the City of Philadelphia’s press release here.

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