Unclear whether VaxMillions increased vaccinations

State officials are trying to spin the VaxMillions Giveaway as a success, but it’s very hard to say whether the lottery game actually did what it was intended to do – prod more people to get vaccinated. 

The Baker administration points out that between the time the game was announced on June 15 through the final day of registration on August 19 over 318,000 residents received a first dose of the vaccine, and over 440,000 residents became fully vaccinated.

But what impact the lottery game, whose $10 million cost was paid for using federal COVID funds, had on individual vaccination decisions is unclear. Of course, people got inoculated during that time period, but we don’t know if the game impacted the decision to get vaccinated to any significant degree. 

VaxMillions shut down on Thursday after the latest winners were announced. Cynthia Thirath of Leominster won the $1 million prize for fully vaccinated people 18 and over. Gretchen Selva of Conway won the $300,000 scholarship available to fully vaccinated individuals between 12 and 17. 

Both Thirath and Selva were vaccinated prior to the lottery game being unveiled, so the game itself had no impact on their decisions. The same was true of the previous eight winners.

Gov. Charlie Baker issued a statement on Thursday praising the lottery game, and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who chairs the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, was even more emphatic. “This did in fact encourage thousands who were not yet vaccinated, and at the end of the day that is a win/win for everyone,” she said.

The pace of vaccinations actually slowed after the VaxMillions game was announced. In the four weeks before VaxMillions was announced on June 15, the state was averaging between 21,249 and 42,189 shots a day. After the announcement, the average daily number of shots dropped sharply, hitting a low of 7,596 a day during the week of July 14-20. Over the next four weeks, vaccinations rose, hitting 8,793 during the week of August 11-17.

Clearly, the Baker administration’s vaccine strategy shifted while VaxMillions was being played. When Baker launched the lottery game, his administration was in encouragement mode, urging Massachusetts residents to get vaccinated to protect their health and the health of those they come in contact with. The governor has since shifted to mandate mode, ordering state employees to get vaccinated or face dismissal or disciplinary action and encouraging the private sector to do the same.




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