A day after announcing incentives surrounding vaccination cards for people who have received both their COVID-19 vaccine doses, Manitoba unveiled another program aimed at convincing people to get the jab on Wednesday.
During a Wednesday morning media briefing, Premier Brian Pallister and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries CEO Manny Atwal announced Manitoba would be following in the footsteps of several other North American jurisdictions by creating a vaccine lottery.
There will be two lottery draws coming up this summer, one for all Manitobans aged 12 and up who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by Aug. 12 and another one for those who have received two doses by Sept. 3.
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries will be running the lottery, with a third-party auditor overseeing the process.
The lottery is one of several vaccination incentives announced for Manitoba this week. On Tuesday, Pallister announced that Manitobans who have reached the two-week mark after their second vaccine dose can apply for a vaccination card that allows them to skip the two-week quarantine process after returning from travel within Canada and visit friends and family at health-care facilities and personal care homes.
Each draw will feature three lump-sum prizes of $100,000 each for people in the Winnipeg health region and one $100,000 prize for each of the rest of the province’s health regions for people aged 18 and up.
Those aged 12 to 17 will instead be eligible to win one of 10 scholarships worth $25,000 each for each draw.
People who have been immunized will automatically be entered, including those vaccinated on or before the Wednesday announcement. MLAs, people managing the lottery and their immediate family members are not eligible to win prizes from the lottery.
Residents who received their vaccination doses in other jurisdictions can send proof of vaccination to email@example.com or a local public health office to be entered into the draw.
Anyone not interested in entering the draw will be able to opt out.
According to Atwal, several final legal details still need to be worked out ahead of the draw and would be released on ProtectMB.ca when finalized. That includes the criteria for which post-secondary institutions the scholarships can be used at and what will happen if a recipient doesn’t intend on pursuing further study after high school.
Speaking about the decision to create the lottery, Pallister said while the government respects Manitobans’ choice to do what they want with their body, it also believes that getting vaccinated is the right decision.
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"Research in Manitoba and in other jurisdictions show that financial incentives need to be large, they should be universal — in other words, they should be available to everyone who participates in order to be effective and supportive," Pallister said. The higher the value of the incentive, the more it’ll influence vaccine behaviour."
Asked about what vaccine implementation task force medical co-lead Dr. Joss Reimer said recently about how offering rewards for getting vaccinated could entrench the idea in a small amount of people that the vaccine is illegitimate, the premier said that freedoms will remain curtailed while COVID is present and that Manitoba can’t take 50 years to deal with COVID like it took to use the Salk vaccine to largely eradicate polio.
"The alternative to trying to encourage people is to not try, and I don’t think that’s in me and I don’t think that’s the way to go," Pallister said. "We’re reaching out as best we can and this is one way in support of many others to encourage people to get the information so they’re comfortable and confident in the decisions that they take. That’s going to continue to be the focus going forward. It has to be if we want to get COVID out of here."
Though the province announced on Wednesday that the 70 per cent mark had been reached for first doses among adults, the premier warned that it likely wouldn’t be enough.
"It’s not enough to say two-thirds have been vaccinated," he said. "We used to think that perhaps a few months ago, but the reality of COVID is that it’s sneaky and its variants are dangerous — very, very dangerous, and they move fast. We have to move faster. We have to move faster to get vaccinated in large numbers than we ever thought we would have to before this pandemic struck. Still a ways to go, there’s time for people to get on Team Manitoba and a little bit of motivation to do that."
Earlier this week, the Brandon Wheat Kings announced their own vaccination incentive program where people who can provide proof of receiving one or more vaccine doses can enter a draw to win prizes like a grill, season tickets and luxury box passes. The premier would like to see more programs like that.
"I’d like to see incentivization exercises of various kinds and I’m really proud to see what the Wheat Kings have decided to do there," he said. "Also wanted to compliment Mayor Martin Harder over the weekend on his incentivization initiatives. We can work at various levels to incentivize here."
Pallister also had praise for the Neepawa Titans, who announced they would be shedding the moniker "Natives" and rebranding earlier this week.
Last week, the province announced a grant program where various organizations can get up to $20,000 each to help reach out to vaccine-hesitant people. The premier said as of Wednesday, there have been more than 400 applications.
The premier said information on Manitoba’s reopening plan would be announced in a press conference on Thursday.
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