MONTREAL — The Quebec government announced a lottery worth $2 million in cash prizes and student bursaries on Friday, hoping it will be the extra push needed to get more younger Quebecers vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health Minister Christian Dubé and Finance Minister Eric Girard made the announcement at the Montreal headquarters of state-owned gaming commission Loto-Québec, which they said will oversee the lottery. Girard told reporters the lottery system will be split into prizes for adults and for children aged 12 to 17, who will need to register on the government's online vaccine-appointment portal to be eligible to win.
More than 82 per cent of Quebecers 12 and older have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 52 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated. But Dubé said concerns about the more transmissible Delta variant of the novel coronavirus led authorities to go the prize route. The government, he added, wants at least 75 per cent of every age cohort fully vaccinated by the end of August.
People between the ages of 18 to 29 continue to lag behind older citizens, with about 69 per cent of that age cohort vaccinated with at least one dose. About 73 per cent of children between 12 and 17 are vaccinated with one dose.
"Each percentage point is worth 75,000 new people being vaccinated, so is it worth it? I think every penny is worth it at this stage of the game to ensure we are ready for Sept. 1," Dubé said.
Girard said the state will draw names every Friday in August and the grand prize will be drawn Sept. 3, adding that any vaccinated Quebecers can start registering to be part of the lottery on July 25, regardless of when they received their shots. To qualify for the grand prize, entrants will need to have both doses of their vaccine by Aug. 31, which means they'll need to get their first dose by July 31 at the latest, Girard said.
Adults who have had at least one dose will be eligible to win a weekly cash prize of $150,000, and adults with two doses will be eligible to win the grand prize of $600,000 on Sept. 3.
Children aged 12 to 17 with one dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible each Friday in August to win two student bursaries worth $10,000 each, and fully vaccinated children will be in the running for 16 bursaries worth $20,000 each for the final draw on Sept. 3.
Meanwhile, health officials reported 83 new COVID-19 cases Friday and three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Officials said hospitalizations rose by three, to 84, and 25 people were in intensive care, a rise of two. The province says 99,852 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered Thursday.
Dubé said he hopes the lottery system makes people realize "it pays to be vaccinated." He said members of the government are making bets of their own to see how many more people the lottery will attract to roll up their sleeves.
"We have internal bets that we will not share with you," he told reporters.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press