Jun 4, 2021 - News

Colorado's vaccine lottery didn't boost rates ahead of first drawing

Illustration of a syringe with numbered lottery balls inside.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

By dangling five $1 million-dollar prizes, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis hoped to boost the state's COVID-19 vaccine rates.

  • So far, that hasn't happened.

The state of play: The governor will announce the first winner today, but most of the entries are not new.

In the week since the sweepstakes' launch, the number of shots administered in Colorado plunged to new lows.

  • The day of the announcement — a Tuesday — the number of doses given increased 15%, which is a typical increase from a Monday.
  • The total for the week of the debut fell 37% from the prior one — the largest dropoff since immunizations began.
COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Colorado
Data: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Context: By contrast, Ohio saw a significant increase in vaccine rates when it became the first state to announce a random-drawing lottery.

What's happening: The downward trend reflects vaccine hesitancy in the remaining population, a roadblock that is making it difficult for Colorado to reach 50% immunization in the first six months of the rollout.

  • The challenges are leading more states and companies to offer incentives to boost interest, even though polling shared with Axios shows the most significant factor for holdouts may be FDA approval.

What they're saying: Polis downplayed the numbers and maintained it made a difference, despite the data. He said he hopes media coverage will drive more interest in the future.

  • "It will have even more impact once people see there are winners for the $1 million dollar prizes and $50,000 scholarships," he said.

The intrigue: One other issue plaguing the contest is technology. Colorado public health administration officials admitted Thursday that the online portal to check vaccine status — and entry into the sweepstakes — is "not perfect."

  • In some cases, the information entered by providers doesn't include a cellphone or email, which prevents vaccine recipients from being able to check their status using that info.
  • In other cases, the website's poor user interface is creating problems, officials said.

Of note: More than 12,000 people have called and emailed to report problems checking their entry status, Polis administration officials told Axios.

  • In 99% of the cases, the records are later confirmed in the database.
  • Military and Department of Defense personnel who received shots through the federal government are still not included, officials said.

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