Quebec to hand out $2M in prizes to boost vaccination rates

Those over 18 will be entered in a draw for up to $1 million in cash, and bursaries of up to $20,000 will be awarded to a few lucky 12- to 17-year-olds.

Weekly draws for cash and bursaries begin next month for all vaccinated Quebecers

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announces a COVID-19 vaccination lottery at a news conference in Montreal on Friday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Quebec will hold draws for $2 million in cash prizes and bursaries this summer in a bid to get as many people vaccinated as possible before September.

Starting Aug. 6, weekly draws will be held. Those over 18 could win up to $1 million in cash, and bursaries of up to $20,000 will be awarded to lucky 12- to 17-year-olds.

Health Minister Christian Dubé stressed that the province wants to do everything it can to encourage inoculation against COVID-19.

"Every additional per cent would be a win," he said at a news conference Friday.

Quebecers ages 18-34 are still about 80,000 people short of reaching the province's goal of 75 per cent getting their first dose this summer. Across all eligible age groups, 82 per cent of Quebecers have received their first shot.

Dubé said the spread of the delta variant in other countries pushed the province to launch the campaign, called Gagner à être vacciné! ("Vaccination has its benefits") in partnership with Loto-Québec, to prevent the spike in hospitalizations that has accompanied the rise in delta cases in populations with low vaccination rates.

Lacking concrete data on the effects such campaigns, Daniel Paré, who is running Quebec's vaccination campaign, said Quebec will be watching for any impact a lottery has on vaccination trend lines.

Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethethicist and professor at the University of Montréal, says that there are encouraging signs that incentives — "between a million dollars and a chocolate bar" — might be helping encourage some people to get their vaccine.

"We don't have robust data from all over the world, but locally in the U.S. and in France where it has been implemented, it seems to be working," she said. Vaccination lotteries are also being held this summer in Alberta and Manitoba.

But Ravitsky says such incentives are unlikely to convince "long-term anti-vaxxers." Where it could help is with those who don't see a big rush in getting their shot, haven't put aside the time or are squeamish about needles, she said.

"For those people, and it seems like there are many, many thousands of them, this could be the last push," she said.

Big prize is $1M

The first of four weekly draws for Quebecers with their first dose will take place on Aug. 6, when one cash prize of $150,000 will be drawn for those 18 and older, and two $10,000 bursaries will be drawn for those aged 12-17.

On Sept. 3, a $1-million prize will be drawn for fully vaccinated adults, and 16 $20,000 bursaries will be drawn for fully vaccinated teens.

All Quebecers who have been previously vaccinated, either in the province or elsewhere (with proof they received a Health Canada-approved shot) are eligible.

Quebec's proof of vaccination portal will have the option to opt in to the contest as of July 25, and participants must consent to having their name made public if they win one of the draws.

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio


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