You could be a winner, but don’t hold your breath.
The state of Illinois last week joined a parade of other states offering the possibility of financial rewards to its citizens who have been or will be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine brags that creating a lottery to reward vaccination recipients has led to a 45 percent increase in vaccination rate. New York, Maryland, California and, soon, others are joining Illinois in emulating the Ohio model.
Statistics, of course, can be misleading. So it would be ill-advised to draw a one-to-one correlation between the lottery and increased vaccination rates. But, like consuming grandma’s chicken soup to cure a cold, the lotteries can’t hurt.
Ohio recently announced its fourth round of winners, and it won’t be long before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is making similar announcements here.
The idea is that offering rewards and subsequent news stories about ordinary people claiming those rewards will generate the kind of publicity that will boost vaccination turnout.
There’s no question that the rewards are substantial. Illinois is offering $7 million in prizes and another $3 million in college scholarships in a lottery open to residents who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The weekly drawings begin July 8 and will run through most of August.
As for the odds against winning, don’t ask. The state is selling a dream, however elusive it may be.
The money to pay for the winnings comes from federal bailout funds, and why not? Manna from heaven is roughly equivalent to cold hard cash from Washington, D.C. But there’s an earnestness about lotteries like these that raises questions.
The benefits of getting vaccinated are well-known. The vaccines have led to steep declines in case counts, positivity rates and hospitalizations. That’s why life has returned pretty much to normal in Illinois after 15 months of restrictions.
But the risk/reward involving cost still applies. That’s why Ohio’s DeWine spoke foolishly when he defended the expense of his state’s lottery.
“The true waste at this point in the pandemic is for someone to die from COVID,” he said, repeating the vacuous mantra that “if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.”
Actually, costs do matter. Dollars spent on one marginally effective program are dollars that can’t be spent on another program that might produce better results for greater numbers of people. All issues of this nature involve tradeoffs.
Nonetheless, the lottery is on. Maybe it will work as intended. Unfortunately, too many people seem to be avoiding the vaccination for a specific reason. It’s not that they’re not aware of the vaccine option, it’s that they seem to be — for whatever reason — purposely avoiding it.
State statistics show that more than 6.3 million Illinoisans have received at least one dose and 5.9 million are fully vaccinated. But that still leaves millions unvaccinated in Illinois, which has a population of roughly 12.5 million.
Part of the reluctance stems from the notion that some people believe they don’t need to be vaccinated because the pandemic is on the wane in the U.S. The latter’s true, but the virus is still here, and it’s the unvaccinated among us who are ending up in the hospital.
Illinois reported an additional 16 fatalities on Thursday and 13 more on Friday. The state’s coronavirus death total is more than 23,000.
While it may well be that continuing deaths are occurring primarily among older people already in failing health when they contracted the virus or younger people with comorbidities, it remains an issue that ought not be ignored.
The News-Gazette has said it before and, doubtless, will say it again.
Do the smart and relatively simple thing — get the vaccine. Do it for your own sake, not for the sake of a minuscule chance to hit it big.