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Lottery-style incentives don't boost COVID-19 vaccination rates, study finds

Boston University researchers found a similar lottery in Ohio failed to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, too.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A second vaccinated North Carolinian will win $1 million and a teenager will get $125,000 toward a college education Wednesday as the state holds its second COVID-19 vaccine lottery drawing. 

In total, North Carolina will have four cash drawings with prizes meant to encourage more people to go out and get the COVID-19 shots. Despite that intention, research shows incentives don't seem to be working

Vaccine providers in the Charlotte area haven't noticed a bump in demand since the lottery was announced, or since the first winner was introduced. Gov. Roy Cooper touted the success of a similar lottery in Ohio when he announced North Carolina would give it a try, but new research shows the state's program really didn't have an impact on vaccination rates.

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“We have not seen necessarily an increase but it’s hard to know what impact those prizes have had,” Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease expert with Novant Health, said. “Would it be a more steep decline without those prizes?"

Cooper announced the summer cash drawings on June 10. State data shows there was a slight increase in shots given that week, but as the first drawing came and went on June 23, demand continued to go down. Researchers at Boston University's School of Medicine found similar incentives really haven't worked.

RELATED: Man changes his mind and gets vaccinated after learning about NC's $1 million lottery

“I applaud efforts of states to do whatever it takes to get people vaccinated. I don't know that I’d say it's a waste of money," Priest said. "I think if more people get vaccinated because of it, in the long run, it saves the state money because it's very expensive to deal with a pandemic."

The second drawing comes as mass vaccination clinics across the county are closing down or reducing hours, providers no longer seeing the need for those efforts.

Novant Health’s east Charlotte site will now only operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“This is an intentional shift in our strategy as we scale back our larger vaccination sites, we're scaling up in the number of primary adult and pediatric clinics that will offer the vaccine,” Dr. Priest said.

The state will call the winners just after they are selected around 10 a.m. They will not ask for any banking information, only documentation to confirm the winner’s identity. Those selected have 48 hours to call the state back to claim the prize. 

Chloe Leshner: Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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