Vaccination Lotteries: Are they Ethical?

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Vaccination Lotteries: Are they Ethical?
  • Author:
    William Monroe
  • Published:

are vaccination lotteries really ethical?

Lotteries and Bursaries

Many countries, states, and provinces have been getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 for a while now, but there still are a significant number of people who do not even have the first dose. This has concerned the medical and political communities so much, that many incentives to get vaccinated have been implemented. One of these incentives is for the medical community to partner with state and provincial government lottery operators to hold cash lotteries to try to entice people to get vaccinated. In other words, get your VAX and your name goes into a lottery to win cash if you are 18 years old (or of legal age to gamble,) or a bursary of tens of thousands of dollars if you are between 12-17 years old.

In some countries such as the United States and France, there does seem to be an obvious increase in vaccinations due to the lottery, but not a significant increase at all. In fact money may not be the great motivator that health agencies thought it would. There are many people who refuse to get vaccinated for a number of reasons, such as negative stories about the vaccines rampant on the internet, not trusting the vaccine due the strange fact the various vaccines all seem to have been available around the same time, and created so quickly. And of course, there are millions of people who have varying degrees of the fear of needles. So the thought is that the chance of winning money will change their minds. Unfortunately for this demographic, that has not been the case.

But the major aspect of running a lottery to win money or prizes just to increase vaccination numbers may be illegal or unethical in various ways. Lottery regulators and operators run lotteries as a way to make a profit, bring in a large amount of money for charities, and provide both entertainment and monetary prizes to paying players. By offering draws for cash if you get the COVID shot means no one is buying a ticket, so charities receive nothing from vaccine draws. And what about the most important part of running lotteries, Responsible Gambling?

Is it Responsible?

Lotteries are conducted under Responsible Gambling standard practices to ensure lottery draws are conducted in a way that are done honestly, legally, and with full integrity and transparency. As such, there is a huge emphasis on the prevention and treatment of potential problem gambling issues, such as gambling addiction. By automatically entering those vaccinated into the lottery, or requiring those to opt-in to the draw, there is no vetting of “players” as there are in regular lottery drawings.

There are no Responsible Gambling practices in place to prevent or treat those who have never played the lottery, but may be exposed to gambling which might cause them to eventually become addicted. There is no “problem gambling” helpline or website shown, as there is at retailers and other places lottery tickets are sold.

And the biggest issue with vaccine lotteries is the exposure of minors to gambling. Yes, offering monetary prizes to those of legal gambling age is consistent with regular lottery rules. Minors cannot gamble. And much effort and money is spent on preventing underage gambling and trying to keep minors from becoming gambling addicts. However, offering even educational bursaries in a lottery draw to those 12 to 17 years old, who only have to get a COVID shot to enter the contest, and do not require a parent’s or guardian’s permission to do so, is totally countering both gambling laws and Responsible Gaming regulations. This gives minors the impression that gambling is good, is ok, and is a great incentive to join the crowd in various activities, good or bad.

Is that really the impression we want our kids to get from the exposure to a COVID lottery draw? And is even offering a lottery, simply to get more people to get a vaccine, really ethical in any way, or even legal if really looked into? There are many people on both sides of the issue that have their own arguments and examples to support their beliefs. However, entering minors into a draw to win bursaries or other types of education incentives goes against all Responsible Gambling initiatives, and gaming rules and regulations, to prevent minors from gambling and possibly becoming addicted to it. It simply says that the Responsible Gambling program is a total waste of time and money. Did anyone think of this before they went the desperation route to get people vaccinated?

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