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Massachusetts Vaccine Lottery Might Nudge Some To Get A COVID-19 Shot

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Craig F. Walker
Boston Globe / Pool / State House News Service
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

This week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a COVID-19 vaccine lottery, designed to encourage people to continue to get their shots.

Residents who get their vaccine can enter to win one of five $1 million prizes. For those under age 18, five $300,000 scholarships are up for grabs.

Massachusetts has done well in getting people fully vaccinated, with more than four million people having done so. Ohio tried a similar program with some success.

Panelist Elizabeth Román said she hopes the program works in Massachsuetts.

"One thing to point out is that we keep saying that Massachusetts is doing so well," she said. "But if you look at particular pockets and communities, including the communities of color, a lot of them still aren't vaccinated."

Román said a lottery might provide an incentive, but it's not as good as something people can reliably use.

"I read one article that said give workers paid time off, because a lot of them are afraid that if they get sick for the second [shot], they don't have anybody to watch their kids, or to even take care of them, if they get sick," she said. "So, yeah, a lottery is an incentive, but maybe a real tangible thing, like you can have a day off after you get the vaccine. That might work better."

Panelist Dave Eisenstadter said he thinks it's a good idea to use federal funds to cover the costs for the vaccine prizes, since it's worth it to nudge more people to get vaccinated. But there are other long-term challenges involved, he said, like food security and unemployment.

"I read one doctor, who was actually commenting on a previous incentive program that was offering Massachusetts residents $25 Market Basket gift cards," he said. "He was saying that the increases to vaccine sign-ups that you see from these programs say a lot more about food and cash and security than vaccine hesitancy."

The Springfield school department is entering into an agreement with the police department giving them access to surveillance camera video at schools. The footage will be available during emergencies as well as other investigations with written approval.

School Committee member Barbara Gresham voted against the idea. But Mayor Domenic Sarno said police can't randomly view video, and the agreement is all about safety during an emergency. In 2018 and 2019, police officers in Springfield were charged with assaulting students inside school in two incidents.

In Connecticut this week, lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana. Governor Ned Lamont said he will sign the bill. It allows for possession starting July 1, and paves the way for retail sales, which could start as soon as next year. Connecticut is the 19th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize cannabis.


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