Philadelphia will hold drawings with cash prizes for residents who have received the coronavirus vaccine, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Monday as the city joined a growing number of state and local governments offering incentives for vaccination.
The city’s “Philly Vax Sweepstakes” will include three drawings with top prizes of $50,000. In each of the three drawings, two residents will win the grand prize, four people will win $5,000, and six people will win prizes of $1,000.
“Even if we get a small percentage of people to be vaccinated it’s more than we had before,” Kenney said.
The drawing system was developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, which will also fund the prizes.
While lotteries and incentives for vaccination — including a $1 million giveaway in Ohio — are growing in popularity across the country, the Penn researchers said they sought to design the Philadelphia sweepstakes to maximize results and boost vaccination rates in the city’s most under-vaccinated zip codes.
Residents in low-vaccinated zip codes will have better chances of winning a prize, said Katy Milkman, a professor at Penn’s Wharton School. For each drawing, one of the 20 zip codes with the lowest vaccination rate will be chosen at random two weeks in advance. Half of the winners will be drawn from that zip code alone, with the rest selected from everywhere in the city.
A resident in the selected zip code has about 100 times better chances of winning than other residents, Milkman said.
For the first drawing, on June 21, the selected zip code 19126 includes parts of the East and West Oak Lane neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. The other two drawings will be held July 6 and July 19.
The drawings also have a so-called “regret lottery” feature, meaning that residents do not need to be vaccinated to have their names drawn. But if they are contacted as a winner and have not yet received a first dose of the vaccine, they won’t get the prize.
“Research suggests that can be highly motivating,” Milkman said.
Residents are encouraged to register for the sweepstakes, but winners will also be drawn from an existing residential database.
Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said the sweepstakes, for which Penn reached out to city officials to organize, is an exciting chance to “get people who are still thinking about getting vaccinated to come out and get their shots.”
To date, 67% of Philadelphia adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to city data. But progress has slowed in recent weeks, and racial disparities persist — especially in people under age 44.
City Council is also seeking to add other forms of incentives. Councilmember Cindy Bass introduced two bills last month that would give residents who get vaccinated a $50 credit toward their gas or water bill or a $50 gift certificate from the city. Bass, chair of Council’s public health committee, also expressed support for the new sweepstakes in a news release Monday.
Kenney said Monday that his administration is still working with Council to review the other incentive proposals, which would be more difficult to administer than the cash prize drawing.
The concept is “not impossible, but we’re working our way through to see if it’s feasible,” he said.
There are three ways for residents to register for the sweepstakes to ensure they are in the pool of potential winners, but registration is not required:
Online at www.PhillyVaxSweeps.com
By phone at 1-877-642-5666 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
By texting “Phillyvax” to 215-608-9799
Once registered for the sweepstakes, a person will be entered into all three drawings. After a name is selected, the winner will be contacted and will be asked to sign a form allowing for verification of their vaccination status.