Quebec will launch a lottery for a total of $2 million in prizes in order to get more people to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Health Minister Christian Dubé announced the initiative Friday at Loto-Québec’s headquarters in Montreal as the province ramps up its immunization campaign ahead of fall.
“I want to say this: it’s not only to reward those who are already vaccinated, but also those who will get vaccinated,” he told reporters gathered at the state-owned gaming commission.
Registration for the contest will begin online starting July 25, he said. The goal is to encourage eligible Quebecers who haven’t done so already to book their appointments as soon as possible.
Four draws will take place throughout the month of August every Friday for adults who have received their first dose. Each drawing is $150,000 for a total of $600,000.
There is a grand prize of $1 million in September for those 18 and older who have received both shots of the vaccine.
Quebec is also opening the lottery to children aged 12 to 17 but will give winners in that age category bursaries ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 for school.
Quebec is the latest province to adopt a lottery system to bump up numbers. Alberta and Manitoba have used prizes to incentivize vaccination.
Finance Minister Eric Girard described it as a new initiative to help the province, which has been hard hit by the pandemic, to reach its vaccination goals. To qualify for the grand prize, entrants will need to have both doses of their vaccine by Aug. 31, which means they’ll need to get their first dose by July 31 at the latest, he added.
“It’s another tool,” he said.
The lottery system comes as the government aims to have at least 75 percent of every eligible age cohort fully vaccinated by the end of August.
In Quebec, adults between the ages of 18 to 29 continue to lag behind older citizens, with about 69 percent of that age cohort vaccinated with at least one dose. About 73 percent of children between 12 and 17 are vaccinated with one dose.
“Each percentage point is worth 75,000 new people being vaccinated, so is it worth it? I think every penny is worth it at this stage of the game to ensure we are ready for Sept. 1,” Minister Dubé said.
The government has boosted vaccination efforts in recent weeks. As of Thursday, the interval between doses has been halved from eight weeks to four for children aged 12 to 17. All eligible Quebecers are now able to bump their booster shot.
Last week, the province also announced the introduction of a novel coronavirus vaccination passport system for September.
Under the plan, the passports will only be used if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases or an outbreak. In that case, people will have to prove they are adequately vaccinated to access certain non-essential services such as gyms, bars and restaurants.
The goal is to prevent a fresh wave of lockdown measures when students return to class and cold weather sets in.
Minister Dubé stressed again that vaccination is key to returning to some kind of normalcy in the coming months. That is why the province is putting in so much effort to get shots into arms before autumn.
“We’re doing this to avoid hospitalizations if cases creep up in the fall,” he said.
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