Luck of the draw: is a COVID-19 vaccine lottery fair?

Luck of the draw: is a COVID-19 vaccine lottery fair?

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s a lottery with a different kind of jackpot — COVID-19 vaccines.

That’s how some states are giving out shots for priority groups due to high demand and not enough supply.

But 19 News found a lottery system may not be as equitable as it seems.

It’s the luck of the draw for many seniors 65 and up in Minnesota as to when they’ll get the COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 226,000 Minnesotans over age 65 are on a waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine lottery.

It’s a similar system in eastern Idaho, where officials announced a lottery for priority groups including those 65 and older, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

19 News recently sat in on a briefing with Dr. Chris Beyrer, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Here’s what he said about vaccine supply.

“We are in a period of vaccine scarcity where there’s more demand than there is vaccine, and we’re going to be for many months,” he said. “The best estimate is we probably won’t have enough vaccine for every adult who wants one in this country until probably June.”

He expects more states to consider using vaccine lotteries.

“So the vaccine scarcity is going to continue, and people are using lotteries because they are seen as more just and more fair. And there certainly is an argument for that,” he said.

Dr. Beyrer said there’s one negative that stands out when it comes to using a lottery system.

He said there will still be all kinds of people excluded from getting the shots.

“People who don’t have access to a computer, people who don’t have access to a car, if the lottery means you have to drive to a vaccine trial,” he said. “And we can’t be in a situation where there are whole segments of the population who get lower or much lower immunization rates because then we won’t achieve the public health goal of immunizing enough of the population.”

19 News reached out to the Ohio Department of Health to see if a vaccine lottery is under consideration here. This is their response from a spokesperson:

Ohio is not considering a lottery system for vaccines at this time. Vaccines are currently being distributed by local vaccine providers and each have their own ways of signing people up. Ohio will pause at 65 and not introduce any other age group for several weeks so that those Ohioans that are eligible can make an appointment.

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