Oct 19, 2021 - Politics

Colorado's vaccine sweepstakes didn't boost rates

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Colorado spent $5 million in COVID-19 relief money on a much-hyped sweepstakes that failed to boost the state's vaccination rates, a new study finds.

Why it matters: Published Friday in JAMA Health Forum, the research is the first to examine the effectiveness of 19 state-run lotteries, writes Axios' Ivana Saric, and it offers insight into how governments can better craft incentive-based policies.

  • The findings contradict previous statements from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis touting the program — which gave $1 million to five randomly selected winners. The Democrat has repeatedly suggested it helped, despite prior evidence to the contrary.

What they found: The study revealed there was essentially "zero difference" in the vaccination rates of states that held lotteries and those that didn't.

What they're saying: The "research points to a disappointing outcome — that is, there was no significant association found between a cash-drawing announcement and the number of vaccinations administered after the announcement date," said Andrew Friedson, an economist at the University of Colorado-Denver and a co-author of the study.

  • "This shows a clear need to reassess how we are encouraging individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," he added.

The other side: A Polis spokesperson dismissed the academic study, saying it's "easy to be an arm-chair critic" and suggested other studies in the future will prove the governor's side.

  • "What Coloradans should take away is that the Polis administration has spared no expense, acted with urgency, creativity, and took bold innovative action to end this pandemic as quickly as possible by rapidly deploying the vaccine," press secretary Conor Cahill said in a statement to Axios Denver.

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