A shot for $1 million

Massachusetts plans lottery incentive to get more of its residents vaccinated.

Governor Charlie Baker announces the VaxMillions lottery program.

Martha’s Vineyard appears to be out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19 spread. Over the past few weeks, there have been only a few positive cases each week.

Meanwhile, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s June 17 Weekly COVID-19 Vaccination Report, Islanders are taking the vaccine, with 93 percent of Dukes County’s vaccine-eligible population, 12 years and older, having been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. Martha’s Vineyard is ahead of the rest of Massachusetts in vaccination rates. The next highest is Nantucket, with a 92 percent vaccination rate, while the lowest is Hampden County at 52 percent. Of course, the smaller populations on the Islands help in attaining such a high vaccination rate. 

With that level of buy-in, the announcement by the Baker-Polito administration on June 15 of a COVID vaccine incentive program called the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway isn’t needed as incentive for Islanders. All Massachusetts residents 12 years and older who have been fully vaccinated are eligible for entry into the lottery. The VaxMillions has two types of awards: for adults, a chance to win one of five $1 million prizes, while children and minors have an opportunity to win one of five $300,000 scholarship grants in a 529 savings plan managed by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority. Those who work or study in Massachusetts but have permanent residency in another state are ineligible to enter the lottery. 

Since it is difficult to find someone living on Martha’s Vineyard who has not been vaccinated, The Times asked a few Islanders this hypothetical: If you were not vaccinated, would an incentive program like VaxMillions encourage you to get vaccinated? All of the individuals below are fully vaccinated. 

Bob McLean, founder of SwimYourDream, said an incentive program would have probably encouraged him to get vaccinated, had he not already received his doses. McLean said that he thinks that while some people are being cautious about the vaccine, there are also many who are being selfish by not getting themselves vaccinated. He said he is supportive of the VaxMillions program. “If it isn’t working, why would they do it?” said McLean. 

Sam Koohy, a traffic officer in Vineyard Haven, said the incentive program would not have mattered for him. “I’d get it since I know it’s the right thing to do,” said Koohy. “We have to do what we have to do.” 

Elysha Roberts, who was helping Althea Designs sell art and potted plants, said the lottery helps, but she would have gotten the vaccine either way. Roberts said she was “all for it,” and thinks the incentive program is a good way to get people vaccinated and more informed about the COVID vaccine to the public.

In announcing the vaccine incentive, Baker said in a press release that the goal is to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine has access to one: “The VaxMillions Giveaway is one of the many ways our administration is encouraging people to get the vaccine, and we are grateful for the partnership of Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and the Massachusetts State Lottery in developing the program.” 

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito in the press release. “We are hopeful that this new initiative will encourage even more residents to get the COVID vaccine and help return our commonwealth to a new normal.”

The answers on -sland seem to reflect the low level of hesitation toward the vaccine the southern New England area has, compared with some other regions, such as the South, which can be seen on this map made by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Many other states are also using incentive programs to get people to become vaccinated. New York, California, and Ohio also have COVID vaccine lottery programs, according to Scientific American. Others use less expected measures. West Virginia has been offering trucks and firearms on top of cash prizes. Alabama offers a chance to drive the Talladega Superspeedway, a race track that has hosted NASCAR competitions. 

With various incentive programs starting, the question arises: Do the incentives work for encouraging people to receive the COVID vaccine? Scientific American reported that incentive programs work to get people to feel better about receiving the vaccine, rather than forcing them to. This could be seen when, reported by the Akron Beacon Journal, workers quit Malley’s Chocolates in Ohio after that company mandated employees get the COVID vaccine. Incentives’ value will also vary depending on different demographics. Scientific American reported Democrats to be slightly more responsive to monetary awards, while Republicans were slightly more responsive to behavioral awards, such as lifting mask mandates. 

The VaxMillions lottery will be open on July 1, and entries can be made until August 20. There will be one drawing per week from July 27 until August 27. Children and minors do not need a parent or guardian to fill out the entry form, but will need to provide the contact information of a parent or guardian. Only one entry per person is allowed. The winner will be decided through a random number generator system. Verification will be done by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health by checking vaccine records. A vaccination card or some other type of identification method may be asked for. More information will be available on July 1.


  1. It is not selfish if one does not want to be vaccinated. We have been lectured for years about ”Choice”. A person should be free to choose to vaccinate or not. Some will now trot out the narrative that the unvaccinated are a danger to others but said nothing when their ”choice” leads to murder in the womb. If you think you are in danger from those who remain unvaccinated then conduct yourself accordingly and stay away. You have had plenty of practice over the last 15 months.

    • Andrew– Just between you and me on a public forum, I think this million dollar thing is a complete waste of taxpayer money– I am sure you agree.
      At this point anyone who wants a vaccine can get it–
      if people choose not to get vaccinated , and acquire “natural” immunity by getting sick, that is their right, that is their choice. I could care less about their suffering, but wonder about when my health insurance rates will go up because people choose to spend weeks in a hospital in the ICU. The only real problem I have with that is that they may infect a vulnerable person who for medical or religious reasons can not get vaccinated.
      Where do we draw the line on what reckless endangerment is ?
      If you choose to not get vaccinated, fine– but please. crawl back into your basement and hide. Of course, no self respecting ‘conservative” would ever think about the health and safety of others.

  2. Vaccination IS a choice. Everyone is absolutely free to decide on getting vaccinated. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to decisions, good and bad.

    Those who actually do care about human life are encouraging vaccination. All unvaccinated are in danger and especially vulnerable to the virulent delta variant. In Florida, there’s a deadly outbreak in a government office. The dead were not vaccinated. The deaths were preventable. The vaccinated did not get sick. When asked about considering vaccination, one widow said they weren’t ready yet but that it was their choice.

    There are consequences to choices.

    The vaccinated are mostly protected and not worried they are in danger. The danger is for all the unvaccinated— not just babies, children, and medically compromised, but for those who made the choice to forego the vaccine. People who respect life understand and care about the danger to others.

    We’re in great shape here in the island, with 93% of eligible residents vaccinated. The rest of the country is only about 50% vaccinated. As outbreaks of the more contagious delta variant increase in areas with low vaccination rates, new deaths will be the tragic consequences of the wrong choice.

  3. Fauci’s latest play now that America is getting back to normal. Even as ours recedes, the next one is always out there, lurking, waiting to pounce, overwhelm hospitals, and stack up dead bodies in the streets if people refuse to obey the orders of hallowed public health officials. Keller and Diez eagerly await the acopalytic news. Fauci recently called Delta the “greatest threat” in the U.S., and the ongoing narrative is that kids and unvaccinated, mostly young people are prone to a potentially deadly date with Delta. But even if it’s more transmissible, is it “deadlier”? Younger people haven’t, after all, been at any statistical risk with any of the previous versions of COVID-1. U.K. data, where delta has already run rampant, shows that this strain, in fact, seems to be significantly LESS lethal than its predecessors. The Delta variant has a 0.1% case fatality rate (CFR) out of 31,132 Delta sequence infections confirmed by investigators. That is the same rate as the flu and is much lower than the CFR for the ancestral strain or any of the other variants. And as we know, the CFR is always higher than the infection fatality rate (IFR), because many of the mildest and asymptomatic infections go undocumented, while the confirmed cases tend to have a bias toward those who are more evidently symptomatic. Time to fire Fauci.

  4. Why does encouraging vaccines, which save lives and lower medical costs, upset the “pro-lifers” so much? It’s proven that vaccines are working. You’d think that the religious right would be happy about all lives saved… if they actually cared about human beings, that is. The Fauci obsession is funny. Can’t the conservatives come up with someone more deserving of ridicule and disrespect? I’d nominate “world class sleazeball” Matt Gaetz to start. Honestly, ranting about life saving vaccines/epidemiologists makes the religious right look so hypocritical, which, of course, they are.

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