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Kay Spofford of Winslow is now almost $900,000 richer because she won Maine’s vaccine lottery. Good for her; too bad for the rest of us.
If we’re being completely honest, we wouldn’t have minded winning the $896,809 — which amounted to one dollar for every Mainer vaccinated by July 4 — ourselves. As Portland Press Herald editorial page editor Greg Kesich tweeted earlier this week, “I’m kinda disappointed I didn’t win the vaccine lottery.” You’re not alone, Greg.
But somebody out of the more than 350,000 entrants had to win, and after learning more about her and seeing her reaction, Spofford seems like a fitting person to take home this lottery prize. A dialysis dietician, she told Gov. Janet Mills’ office that she got vaccinated this winter to protect her patients with serious kidney disease, her loved ones and her community. Apparently, paying it forward can also pay off.
“My husband and I strive for a simple life, but this money will give us peace of mind in our retirement and allow us to make repairs to our house and travel to visit our children and our grandbaby on the way,” Spofford told the governor’s office. “I encourage everyone in Maine to get vaccinated to keep themselves and others safe and to help Maine continue leading the fight against COVID-19.”
That last part might be the most important.
Getting vaccinated has clearly and literally paid off for Spofford. But did the lottery pay off for the state? We reached out to the Mills administration to see if the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention had analyzed the effectiveness of the sweepstakes, and determined whether or not it had a positive impact on vaccination rates. Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long told the editorial board that 20,000 Maine people chose to get vaccinated since the launch of the sweepstakes, calling it “progress that we are proud of.”
According to the Maine CDC’s vaccination dashboard, as of July 7, over 790,000 final vaccine doses have been administered in Maine, with 66.95 percent of the eligible population (those 12 and older) receiving a final dose.
“Vaccination rates increased in some counties that had been lagging. Anecdotally, we heard that the lottery motivated some people in those counties to get vaccinated,” Long added. “We did not hear that the sweepstakes discouraged people from getting vaccinated. Based strictly on anecdotal information and the fact that it did not require state funding, the sweepstakes was a net win for Maine.”
Across the country, officials have seen diminishing returns with many vaccine prizes and incentives. The biggest incentive, however, should be the personal and societal protection these vaccines offer. Just look at the federal data that shows nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are now among unvaccinated people.
Maine has been a leader in administering vaccines, and people across the state deserve credit for being part of that progress. But now is not the time to let our collective foot off the gas. As variants spread and other states and countries experience setbacks, the best way for us to keep the positive momentum behind our Vacationland summer is to stay focused on being Vaccinationland. That means continuing to make the decision to better protect themselves and the people around them by getting vaccinated.
It won’t lead to a big payday like it did for Spofford, but it can still pay off for people’s personal health and for Maine’s recovery.