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Michigan’s Vaccine Lottery Isn’t Working. Here’s Why.

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Dustin Walsh of Crain’s Detroit Business says mandates, not lotteries, are more likely to get Michiganders to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Michigan’s vaccination rate has continued to slow this month, despite the hope and hype surrounding the state’s new vaccine lottery.

Historically, if we look at lotteries, they don’t really incentivize people to do anything … it’s way more to play the Mega Millions, so why go get inoculated for a much smaller prize?” —Dustin Walsh, Crain’s Detroit Business

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the MI Shot to Win contest on July 1 to encourage Michiganders to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with individual prizes up to $2 million. However, journalist Dustin Walsh says the lottery is not improving vaccination rates as hoped. 

Listen: What will it take to get Michiganders vaccinated? 


Dustin Walsh is a senior reporter covering health care for Crain’s Detroit Business. His recent column is titled “Vaccination lotteries don’t move the needle on inoculations.” He says Michigan’s vaccination rate increased by less than 1% since the governor announced the MI Shot to Win contest. 

The actual rate [of new vaccinations] has declined significantly,” Walsh says more than half of U.S. states are doing some kind of vaccination lottery, but so far none have improved chances of getting its larger population vaccinated. “Historically, if we look at lotteries, they don’t really incentivize people to do anything … it’s way more to play the Mega Millions, so why go get inoculated for a much smaller prize?”

Walsh says guaranteed money upon vaccination would be a better motivator for hesitant residents, but the $5 million contest is a cheaper alternative for the state. “Giving people money would move the needle, it’s just far more expensive.” He says the most effective way to guarantee people get vaccinated is for employers to mandate the vaccine in order for their employees to work, although he notes in his piece that he himself is “not necessarily advocating for mass vaccination mandates.” 

Health care is the largest employer in the state of Michigan,” Walsh says. ”That’s a lot of people to get vaccinated.”

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Nora Rhein, Detroit Today Intern

Nora Rhein works with the production team on “Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson” on 101.9 WDET. She’s very proud to be a public radio nerd.

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