June 20, 2021
-The Western Journal
While the United States has achieved one of the best and most comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the world, many states feel — with good reason — that not enough people are getting vaccinated.
As a result, several states, including Ohio and West Virginia, have created publicly funded “vaccine lotteries” as an incentive for people to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Colorado, using federal money earmarked for vaccine promotion and outreach, has operated a lottery for several weeks, the first winner of which was announced on June 4.
Sally Sliger, a health care worker and clinical data analyst from Mead, received the inaugural $1 million from the state.
Sally Sliger, a health care worker and clinical data analyst from Mead, was announced Friday as the first $1 million prize winner in the Colorado Comeback Cash vaccine lottery. https://t.co/11J2VicPqG pic.twitter.com/aqa76c3f4X
— 25NewsKXXV (@25NewsKXXV) June 7, 2021
But according to KMGH-TV, Colorado’s vaccine distribution efforts include a similar “lottery,” referred to as the Colorado Comeback Cash Scholarship, for 12- to 17-year-olds — one that promises college scholarships instead of liquid winnings.
Through June, Colorado will give 25 scholarships worth $50,000 apiece to tweens and teens who have received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, KMGH reported.
According to Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and Jared Polis, Colorado’s Democratic governor, the money will be placed in a Colorado CollegeInvest 529 college savings account and can be applied at community colleges, trade schools and traditional universities both in and out-of state.
“This scholarship sends a clear message to our state that we need you for our Colorado comeback,” Paccione said, adding that the scholarship represents a life-changing amount of money.
“We want (12- to 17-year-olds) to be protected this summer and want them to have a chance to win,” Polis said of the drawings, noting that he is seeking to prevent a decline in vaccination rates.
In addition, Polis said he expects the program to achieve success.
“I think it’s so far having an impact,” he said. “It will have more of an impact once people see there are winners.”
On the surface, I don’t have a problem with this idea. While Americans have and ought to have the agency to determine whether they will get the vaccine — I chose to — the government does have a public health interest in incentivizing it.
Where I find myself objecting to Colorado’s course of action is in its use of taxpayer money. Yes, the money was set aside by the federal government, but the state shouldn’t have used taxpayer dollars in that manner, either.
Is fiscal responsibility still a thing, or did that get thrown out in favor of endless debt?
Furthermore, if governments were to partner with private businesses instead of using excess or non-existent tax revenue, not only do they achieve their interest of promoting public health, they prop up small businesses leveled by COVID-19 lockdowns.
For example, Erie County, New York, introduced the “Shot and a Chaser” program. County residents who came to the Flying Bison Brewing Company in Buffalo received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine but also were offered a free pint glass and a beer.
“Oh, it’s spectacular,” Flying Bison founder Tim Herzog told Spectrum News. “You can see them walking in here. They’re happy. ‘I’m going to get the shot. I’m a step closer to safety. A step closer to getting my life back.’”
America was built by private industry. It’s time we let it save us again.