A $3-million COVID-19 vaccine lottery is a good investment to encourage vaccine-hesitant Albertans to get the shot and keep reopening plans on track, says Premier Jason Kenney.
The "Open for Summer" vaccine lottery will feature three prizes worth $1 million each. Only vaccinated Albertans are eligible to win.
Knowing that uptake for first doses would wane, the Alberta government had been actively brainstorming creative solutions, finally landing on the mega-prize lottery modelled after similar draws in the United States and Manitoba.
"The impetus for the lottery is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible," Kenney said Monday.
"Every day that goes by that we have hundreds of thousands of people that are not vaccinated, it opens us up to a certain degree of risk. We had very strong demand for first doses until about 10 days ago. And we saw it drop just right off."
'Haven't taken the plunge'
Provincial polling suggests that about 85 per cent of Albertans are open to getting vaccinated, Kenney said.
"There always will be some who will never get a vaccine of any kind. No fact and no plea to civic responsibility will sway them," Kenney said.
"But we also know that there are lots of people who want to get vaccinated or are thinking hard about it but they just haven't taken the plunge yet. We really need to push hard to encourage the 15 per cent who want to get vaccinated or are open to it but have not yet gotten around to it."
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the lottery will pay for itself by clamping down on case rates.
"COVID has already cost us billions and this lottery is aimed at reducing the cost going forward to individual Albertans who are still at risk of getting sick and to all of us as a province," Shandro said. "This is an investment in Albertans and in our province's future. We need to beat the virus once and for all.
Not everyone is so optimistic.
Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta Hospital, characterized it as a gimmick.
She said the province is "throwing money" at vaccine hesitancy, a complex issue that won't be solved by cash incentives.
"They are hesitant, they have concerns about the safety or the efficacy," she said.
"And for those people, I really don't think giving them whatever it is, a one-in-a-million chance to win money, is actually going to make a big difference."
Restriction-free Canada Day?
Stage 3 will begin two weeks after 70 per cent of eligible Albertans have had at least one dose of vaccine.
For the final stage to be in place for Canada Day, about 48,000 first-dose vaccinations need to be completed by Thursday, Kenney said. Currently, with 60,429 first-dose appointments booked over the next seven days, Alberta is projected to hit the target on Friday.
Almost 69 per cent of eligible Albertans have received one or both doses of the vaccination.
WATCH | Alberta hopes lottery will motivate people to get vaccinated:
Albertans must register once at Alberta.ca/lottery to be entered into the three draws. Registration for the first draw will close one week after the 70-per-cent milestone is reached.
The winner of the first draw will be announced on the day Stage 3 begins.
A second draw, to be held Aug. 31, will be open to Albertans who have received both shots. The final draw, also for fully vaccinated Albertans, has a tentative date of Sept. 30.
Draws for additional non-cash prizes will take place on various dates between June 14 and September 30, the province said.