Gov. Cooper, lawmakers discuss potential vaccine lottery in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said he has had conversations with lawmakers from both parties about a potential vaccine lottery in North Carolina, as other states try that to boost vaccination rates.

“We’re certainly looking at what other states have done and looking at their numbers to see if it’s worked. I’ve talked with several legislators on both sides of the aisle about the potential of doing that kind of thing here,” Cooper told CBS17. “And, I think most everybody is of the opinion that whatever works, whatever gets people vaccinated, we want to try because we know that’s the key to emerging from this pandemic, to turning our economy around.”

This week, Ohio gave away its first $1 million prize after Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced his state’s Vax-a-Million giveaway earlier this month.

Following that announcement, the Associated Press reported the state’s vaccination rate increased by about 33 percent, though vaccinations are still down compared to earlier this year.

Federal officials were impressed by the impact the giveaway appeared to have, giving states new guidance this week saying they could use federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to pay for lotteries and other cash incentives.

Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 response, pointed out some counties in Ohio saw their vaccination rates double following the lottery announcement.

“We are nothing if not responsive to good ideas,” he said. “And, the bottom line is, with this guidance we encourage states to use their creativity, to draw attention to vaccines.”

At least seven states have launched vaccination lotteries, with California and West Virginia announcing their own giveaways Thursday.

In North Carolina, state officials launched a pilot program this week in four counties to give people who show up for their first dose of the vaccine at $25 cash card. A person who drives them to a vaccination site are also eligible for a cash card. That promotion is happening in the following counties: Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham.

As of Friday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 53.1 percent of adults are partially vaccinated, and 48.8 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

Cooper had set a goal several weeks ago of getting two-thirds of adults partially vaccinated before he had planned to drop the indoor mask mandate. However, following new CDC guidance, he lifted that almost entirely two weeks ago.

“And, you’re going to see us ramp up the effort over the next couple of weeks, which will include incentives,” said Cooper. “We are emerging from this pandemic. We know that vaccines are getting us there.”

He did not indicate if there’s a specific proposal he would support. Officials with the Governor’s office said they’re continuing to look at the data in other states holding lotteries, and that everything is on the table.

Soon after the announcement in Ohio earlier this month, Republican leaders in North Carolina’s legislature expressed concerns about trying that here.

“I’d say at this point we should stay the course with what we’re doing and ensure that everybody who wants a vaccine gets it, and that it’s being done safely and efficiently,” House Speaker Tim Moore (R) said at the time. “While it is pretty interesting what happened in Ohio, I’m not ready to embrace that just yet.”

Senate leader Phil Berger (R) questioned if it would be “counterproductive” and if people would hold out for bigger prizes and incentives.

He said, “Make the case for people of the importance of being vaccinated. And, we need to actually accept the fact that being vaccinated provides protection.”

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