Manitoba is doling out $1.9 million in cash and scholarships as a way to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The prizes will be awarded in two draws — one for people who get their first dose by Aug. 2, and another for those who get their second by Sept. 6. Anyone 12 and older who gets a vaccine will automatically become eligible to win.
"We need Manitobans to get vaccinated. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we get our lives back. This lottery gives Manitobans a reason to move faster to roll up their sleeves, not once but twice," said Premier Brian Pallister as he made the announcement alongside Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries president and CEO Manny Atwal.
Each draw will award three prizes of $100,000 in the Winnipeg health region, and one $100,000 prize in each of the Prairie Mountain, Southern, Interlake-Eastern and Northern health regions. Churchill, which is part of the Winnipeg health region, will be grouped in with the Northern Health Region for the lottery.
Only people 18 and older will be eligible for the cash prizes.
But those age 12 to 17 can win scholarships. Each of the two draws will award 10 $25,000 scholarships.
WATCH | Pallister announces vaccine lottery:
Anyone who works directly with the lottery and their immediate family, as well as members of the Legislative Assembly, will be excluded.
Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries will conduct the draws, with a third-party auditor providing oversight.
There will be a way for people to opt out of the lottery if they choose.
Grants to address vaccine hesitancy
During a briefing last week, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the task force, warned that cash incentives could be seen as a bribe to those who are already suspicious about the vaccine.
Asked about those concerns on Wednesday, Reimer said the task force had looked closely at the science of incentives.
"For people who are already suspicious of the vaccine or of the government's intent, these financial incentives, if done in the wrong way can make more people more suspicious," she said.
The "worst-case scenario" is when governments simply provide cash in exchange for getting a vaccine, she said.
"But we didn't see the same effect when it came to a lottery. Lotteries tend to bring about more of a sense of celebration and excitement with people."
WATCH | Lotteries likely seen more favourably:
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew questioned why the province isn't using the money in the lottery to try to ease pressure on overburdened hospitals. In recent weeks, Manitoba has been forced to send intensive care unit patients to other provinces because ICUs are full.
"It's another sign that the government can find resources to do things that they want to do, to do things that they think are going to be popular, and yet they don't seem to be able to find the resources ... to fix the crisis in our health-care system right now, the crisis in our ICUs," he said.
Research by the province suggests very few people refuse to get a vaccine — about two per cent of the population.
The rest are vaccine hesitant for various reasons, including language barriers, cultural or religious concerns, wanting to know more about the science, or difficulty getting to a vaccine site.
While the lottery doesn't directly address those challenges, Pallister said it is just one part of the overall campaign.
"We have an advertising campaign that's underway ... we have literature available, we've been promoting the availability of additional information, we'll continue to do that," he said.
Last week, the province announced it will provide up to $1 million for grants of up to $20,000 that groups can use to reach out to people hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Manitoba's vaccination rate for first doses among eligible people 12 and older is at 66.7 per cent, as of Tuesday.
That number is considerably lower in some areas of the province, particularly in the southern Manitoba health districts of Stanley (14.9 per cent), Winkler (28.2 per cent) and Hanover (33 per cent).