Colorado has launched its own version of the TV show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” and all residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are eligible to win. The state announced it will give away $1 million weekly between June 4 and July 7, using federal CARES Act money that would have gone to vaccine advertising. But how well vaccine incentives actually work remains a bit of an open question.
“Colorado, every vaccine works incredibly well,” Gov. Jared Polis said during the Tuesday press conference where he announced the sweepstakes. He pointed to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s 95% effectiveness in keeping people from getting the virus. “But it’s really even more effective than that because the 5% that still get it get much more minor cases of COVID, much lower level of hospitalization.”
Other smaller, health incentive programs, such as offering cash to get people to quit smoking, have shown a degree of success. But using these kinds of cash incentives in a vaccination drive of this scale is unique.
“There’s so much that we don’t know in life, and especially in medical care delivery, that having just a little bit of a better sense of, ‘hey, this works, this doesn’t work’ is really important,” Dr. Daniel Lee said.
Experts say incentives can’t replace efforts to increase access, social pressure or culturally and individually relevant education.
“Incentives are thus particularly effective in changing one-time behaviors — such as obtaining cancer screening and vaccinations,” University of Pennsylvania Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics Director Dr. Kevin Vlopp and social epidemiologist Carolyn Cannuscio wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Even if incentives can produce a short-term bump in vaccination, however, multiple strategies will be necessary to increase population immunity.”