Las Vegas Sun

December 4, 2021

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Nevada to offer prizes to boost coronavirus vaccinations

Drive-thru Vaccinations at LVCC

Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Raiders fan Jose Naranjo gets a vaccine shot at a drive-thru vaccination site at the Las Vegas Convention Center Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

Updated Thursday, June 17, 2021 | 6:03 p.m.

Nevada officials are hoping to entice more residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with prizes like fishing licenses, college scholarships and $1 million in cash.

Nearly 2,000 winners will get a share of raffle prizes worth a total of $5 million during the “Vax Nevada Days” promotion, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday. The first drawing will be July 8.

“We’ve been talking about Nevada’s 3 million reasons to unite behind life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, which is another way of saying every single Nevadan counts as we work to end this pandemic,” Sisolak said at a program unveiling at Allegiant Stadium, where a vaccine clinic was going on elsewhere on the concourse. “Now you have 5 million more reasons for Nevadans to step up (and) get protected against COVID-19.”

The prize purse includes cash prizes starting at $1,000, tuition savings plans ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, hundreds of annual passes to state parks, and more than a thousand state fishing licenses. Weekly drawings will continue through Aug. 26, when the $1 million grand prize winner is picked.

Federal pandemic relief funds are paying for prizes, Sisolak said.

Vaccine recipients are automatically entered upon getting their first dose, and people who have already been vaccinated have been put in the running.

“This is our way of giving our vaccination efforts an extra boost,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada. “We’re working hard every day to make it even easier for people in Nevada to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Nevada ranks in the middle of the pack in vaccine uptake. According to NV Health Response, about 51% of residents 12 and older have had at least one shot; about 43% are fully vaccinated. Nationally, about 62% of people 12 and older have had at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sisolak said he knows some Nevadans are resistant to vaccines in general, citing the state’s consistently low flu vaccination rates.

“If people are looking for a reason not to get vaccinated, they’re going to come up with one,” he said. “I’m trying to give people 5 million reasons to get vaccinated.”

The governor was vaccinated himself in March, but he is not eligible to win any prizes for it. Certain elected officials and state employees, including Sisolak’s staffers, also are not eligible. Neither are prison inmates.

Incentives are a national trend.

The spiffs started small and simple, like free donuts from Krispy Kreme for anyone who presented their vaccination card. In the past few weeks, state governments started announcing increasingly headline-grabbing giveaways.

Ohio, Oregon, Maryland and New York offered promotions worth up to $5 million for people who could prove they had been vaccinated. To get teens excited about the vaccine, Ohio also offered a chance at a free in-state college education.

California reached much deeper into its pockets to create “Vax for the Win,” a $116.5 million program that includes $50 for all vaccine recipients, a stash of 50,000 tickets to Six Flags theme parks, drawings for “dream vacations” and grand prizes of $50,000 to $1.5 million in cash. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has credited these incentives for boosting the state’s vaccination rate, which sits at about 70%.

And in Hawaii, a travel agency owned by Boyd Gaming is giving away an all-inclusive trip for two to its California Hotel in downtown Las Vegas.

But will giveaways work the other way around for Las Vegans and other Nevadans?

Last month, officials from the Southern Nevada Health District thought not, and didn’t think benevolent bribery would be part of Nevada’s strategy.

The health district and partners have sought to make shots convenient by bringing pop-up clinics into the community, in settings both traditional and novel — schools and recreation centers, a topless bar and the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.

Experts are mixed on incentives.

University of Pennsylvania professor Iwan Barankay, who studies what works to encourage patients to take their medications, told a university radio show last month that solutions need to address the more complex socioeconomic barriers keeping people from getting vaccinated.

A survey by the UCLA COVID-19 Health and Politics Project found that cash payments would both convince and deter would-be shot recipients, though responses netted out in the positive — and the more money, the better.

“Roughly a third of the unvaccinated population said a cash payment would make them more likely to get a shot,” UCLA professor Lynn Vavreck said in The New York Times. “This suggests that some governors may be on the right track.”

Nevada’s incentive program comes as Las Vegas prepares to shut down its largest mass vaccination sites and shifts more attention to smaller neighborhood clinics. The clinic at the Las Vegas Convention Center gives its last shots Friday and the Texas Station drive-thru wraps up Monday.

Department of Health and Human Services data shows Nevada has ordered fewer vaccine doses in recent weeks as the number of people seeking inoculations has declined.

The department reported that more than 12,700 doses of vaccine have been wasted since March. The numbers reflected doses opened but discarded, unused or wasted because of mistakes like dropped vials, improper storage or mishandling. The data did not distinguish between the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson products.

Visit covid.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/vaccine/ to find an SNHD or partner clinic. Shots can also be had through pharmacies and private medical providers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.