‘Vax For The Win:' Will State's Cash Lottery Incentive Actually Work?

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Now that the state of California is offering a cash lottery to incentivize vaccinations, there remains a very important question: Will it work?

“Incentives are very effective at changing health behaviors, especially large incentives, and lottery incentives,” said Katy Milkman, PhD.

Milkman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School, is a behavioral economist who praises efforts by states to offer cash incentives.

Dollars for doses? NBC 7's Audra Stafford shares details on California's new plan to offer incentives -- including cash prizes -- just for getting your coronavirus vaccine.

“It’s a no brainer that we should be spending large amounts of money to reach herd immunity, and those amounts of money compared to what we’ve lost when you look at the economic impact of COVID-19, they don’t seem outrageous,” Milkman said.

Milkman, who has written a book "How To Change," said people tend to overweight the small probability of winning a big prize.

NBC 7's Allie Raffa went to the East County to hear reaction to the state's new vaccine lottery program.

“Even when there is a miniscule chance that you will win a jackpot, it’s really hard for us to conceive of small probabilities,” Milkman explained. “We distort probabilities when we think about them, and this is actually a really established effect, and it’s part of why people get so excited about lotteries.”

In San Diego County, as of May 27, 53.4% of eligible residents were fully vaccinated. But in the last month, there has been a dramatic decrease in adults getting their first dose vaccinations.

The state’s "Vax For The Win" lottery is getting initial favorable reaction, though some question the motivation of those who’ve yet to be vaccinated.

“If it’ll convince a lot of people to do it, then maybe it makes some sense. You just kind of wonder what people’s logic is that they aren’t just doing it anyway,” said E.V. Arnold of La Mesa.

“If they have the funds to do it, and we’re not going into debt to produce it, I think it’s fine. I would hate to see people do it just for the money, but I think it’s important to keep our community safe,” said Jana Leard of Mt. Helix.

According to Milkman, between 5-15% of the population still remains adamantly opposed to vaccinations.

“There’s a lot more people who aren’t adamantly opposed who still aren’t vaccinated and I think these kinds of tools are more likely to affect their decisions," Milkman said.

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