RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Preliminary data released Monday by state health officials show the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations is not picking up yet following last week’s announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) establishing a lottery with million-dollar prizes to try to boost interest in getting vaccinated.
Data posted Monday by the NC Department of Health and Human Services showed in the three days (Friday to Sunday) following the lottery announcement last Thursday, about 16,600 people at least got their first COVID-19 vaccine shot.
During the same three-day period the week before, about 24,500 people did that. In the month of May at least 40,000 people got their first doses each week from Friday to Sunday, data from DHHS shows.
“A lot of people call and make appointments. We’re hoping this week will be strong. So, we’re going to give it some more time here. We’re also going to talk about it quite a bit this week,” said Gov. Cooper.
Ohio began the trend of states offering large prizes in drawings to try to drive up interest in getting vaccinated. In the first weekend following Ohio’s announcement, the state’s Department of Health reported a 28 percent increase in vaccinations compared to the weekend before, which followed declines in vaccinations.
Gov. Cooper cited the increase in vaccinations in Ohio as part of his executive order establishing North Carolina’s lottery.
North Carolina is giving away four $1 million prizes to vaccinated people 18 and older. Additionally, four people between ages 12 to 17 will receive a college scholarship valued at $125,000.
The first drawing is Wednesday June 23. Drawings will continue every other Wednesday until Aug. 4.
People who were vaccinated already are eligible for the drawings and will be automatically entered. People who get vaccinated from June 10 onward will get two entries.
“It is just so critical for us to try every way we can to get shots in arms. And, this is one way that has worked in other states, and we’re gonna push it hard here,” Cooper said.
He said he and other state leaders are planning to promote the drawings this week on traditional and social media. Cooper also plans to attend at least one event focused on the drawings as well.
He said regardless of what happens with vaccinations in the coming weeks, he is committed to holding all of the drawings.
The state is paying for the prizes using federal coronavirus relief funding. The Biden administration saw the success Ohio and other states had with their lotteries and encouraged more states to try cash incentives to boost vaccinations.
Noel Brewer, a professor of health behavior at UNC-Chapel Hill, was part of a group that advised the state on the incentives program.
“So, a signal for the success of the incentive programs is that we will go from having a fall in vaccination rates day over day to either plateauing or maybe even increasing. And, I would love to see that increase. I think that’s possible,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of other options, to be honest. The efforts by the state, really terrific, thoughtful, well-conceived efforts, have started to run out of steam in terms of getting people in the door to get vaccinated.”
Initial data from DHHS shows last week, almost 42,000 first doses were administered, which was down from almost 50,000 first doses the week prior. The week of March 8 was when North Carolina saw its peak of first doses administered, which was about 400,000 when essential workers became eligible to be vaccinated.