Lottery for vaccinated Albertans is an investment in health, says Premier Jason Kenney

A $3-million COVID-19 vaccine lottery is a good investment to encourage vaccine-hesitant Albertans to get the shot and keep Alberta’s reopening plans on track, says Premier Jason Kenney. 

The “Open for Summer” vaccine lottery, first announced on Saturday, will feature three prizes worth $1 million each.  Only vaccinated Albertans will be able to win.

When interest in first doses began to wane dramatically this month, Kenney said he asked his team to get creative and the lottery seemed like the perfect incentive. 

“The impetus for the lottery is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible,” Kenney said during a news conference Monday. 

“Every day that goes by that we have hundreds of thousands of people that are not vaccinated, it opens us up to a certain degree of risk. We had very strong demand for first doses until about 10 days ago. And we saw it drop just right off.” 

‘Haven’t taken the plunge’

Provincial polling suggests that about 85 per cent of Albertans are open to getting vaccinated, Kenney said.

“There always will be some who will never get a vaccine of any kind. No fact and no plea to civic responsibility will sway them,” Kenney said.

“But we also know that there are lots of people who want to get vaccinated or are thinking hard about it but they just haven’t taken the plunge yet. We really need to push hard to encourage the 15 per cent who want to get vaccinated or are open to it but have not yet gotten around to it.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the lottery, inspired by similar draws in the United States and one in Manitoba, will pay for itself by clamping down on case rates. 

“COVID has already cost us billions and this lottery is aimed at reducing the cost going forward to individual Albertans who are still at risk of getting sick and to all of us as a province,” Shandro said. “This is an investment in Albertans and in our province’s future. We need to beat the virus once and for all.

Not everyone is as optimistic though. 

Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta Hospital, characterized the lottery as a gimmick. 

She said the province is “throwing money” at the problem of vaccine hesitancy, a complex issue that won’t be easily solved by cash incentives.

“There’s a lot of people who have not gotten a vaccine to date because they are hesitant, they have concerns about the safety or the efficacy,” she said.

“And for those people, I really don’t think giving them whatever it is, a one in a million chance to win money, is actually going to make a big difference.”

Restriction-free Canada Day?

Stage 3 will begin two weeks after 70 per cent of eligible Albertans have had at least one dose of vaccine. In order to launch that final stage for Canada Day, that target must be reached by this Thursday, Kenney said.

The province is currently 48,000 first-dose appointments away from reaching that goal.

More than 68.7 per cent of eligible Albertans have received their first dose, including 20.2 per cent who are fully vaccinated. With 60,429 appointments booked over the next seven days for first doses, Alberta is projected to hit the 70 per cent milestone on June 18, Kenney said.

Kenney said the province has done all it can to encourage vaccinations with pop-up clinics, weekend vaccination drives and targeted vaccine deliveries in homes, care centres and remote communities.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney hopes the $3 million COVID-19 vaccine lottery will get the attention of those who are yet to get the first dose. 2:07

Albertans can register online at Alberta.ca/lottery.  They only need to register once. Registration for the first draw launched online Monday and will close one week after 70 per cent of eligible Albertans get their first dose. 

The winner of the first draw will be announced on the first day of the Stage 3 re-opening. 

A second draw, to be held Aug. 31, will be open to Albertans who have received both shots. The final draw, also for fully vaccinated Albertans, has a tentative draw date of Sept. 30.

Additional non-cash prizes will be announced between June 14 and September 30. Draws for non-cash prizes will take place on various dates between June 14 and September 30, the province said.

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