North Carolina's vaccine lottery was an incentive to urge people to get the shot: Has it worked?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The number of new North Carolinians seeking a COVID-19 vaccine has been shrinking for the past five weeks.

Last week, the state reported 33,000 new people were vaccinated with their first shot, down 400,000 from the peak in early March.

A decrease in new vaccinations is being seen across the United States and governors have attempted to combat this by offering large incentives.

Last month, North Carolina joined the growing number of states to offer a vaccine lottery that offered multiple chances at winning $1 million and college scholarships.

Unfortunately, following Governor Roy Cooper's announcement, vaccination rates didn't see a spike. Instead, the rate of vaccinations has steadily decreased each week with the state reporting a 15% decline during the week of July 5.

During the weeks leading up to the lottery, North Carolina was reporting a much bigger week-to-week decrease. However, this is around the same time when teenagers started to become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.

North Carolina isn't the only state to not see an immediate uptick in vaccinations following similar lotteries.

A new study published in the American Medical Association examined vaccination rates following Ohio's Vax-a-Million. The state was one of the first to conduct a lottery and touted an average increase of 77% in vaccinations during the weeks following the lottery.

The new study, however "did not find evidence that a lottery-based incentive in Ohio was associated with increased rates of adult COVID-19 vaccinations." Rather, researchers suggest the expansion of vaccine eligibility to adolescents contributed to the rise. Ohio announced its lottery on May 12; two days after children as young as 12 years old were approved for the vaccine.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests people are most motivated to get a vaccine by hearing the personal experiences of family and friends.

The KFF report found current vaccine behavior matches people's intentions from early this year. Only about half of the people have received a vaccine who said back in January they would 'wait and see.' Even fewer, just 24%, of people who said they would 'definitely not' get a vaccine have now received one dose.

Concerns about side effects, the novelty of the vaccines, and not believing they need one remain top reasons for hesitations.

Raleigh resident Quante Davis fell in the 'wait and see' category back in January.

"There were definitely mixed emotions and mixed feelings with that. I would have probably definitely not gotten it back in January due to it being something new and not something I was accustomed to," Davis said.

After hearing from family and friends who received the vaccine, he determined it was safe and something he wanted to do.

"Just kind of procrastinated a lot and listened to a lot of people, but today I came alone, jumped into it, and got it done," Davis said.

He received a vaccine this week after walking by a Wake County Health Department vaccination tent set up in Moore Square.

Wake County health officials are hoping by offering multiple sites around the community and going door-to-door that they can be a resources for when people are ready to get the shot.

"One thing that we've been talking about in the county is the snowball effect right when we canvass in one community, maybe that day they didn't, you know, get as many people at the vaccine site right away, but as we return to that community, and they see the consistency and people see the information being made available to them that over time will multiply and produce results, but people have to be able to build that trust first. And I think that that's where our responsibility lies," explained Lwiza Escobar Garcia, a community engagement specialist for the Wake County Health Department.

Garcia said it is going to take time and multiple encounters to have these conversations and debunk some of the misinformation spreading.

Similar to what the Kaiser Family Foundation found, Garcia said anecdotally they are hearing personal experiences are slowly making some people more comfortable with the idea of receiving the vaccine.

"Although, the lottery may have been exciting to people who got the vaccine who were like, 'Wait, can I pay off my student loans with this?' For the folks who were hesitant and afraid it's not necessarily something that is going to appease fears," Garcia explained. "I think that the way that we help people navigate these emotions and this kind of paralysis or these questions that they have is by giving them time and attention and taking them seriously."

Going forward, Wake County plans to continue to canvas in harder to reach communities and meet people where they are.

"I would make a public appeal for having grace and listening to people in this process because it is a difficult decision for each individual to make," she said.

For a list of vaccination locations and events in Wake County visit: https://covid19.wakegov.com/vaccine/

For a statewide list, visit: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines
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