Vaccine lotteries could be legal in Alabama

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Wednesday night Ohio will hold its first $1 million dollar lottery for people who got a COVID vaccine shot. The lottery was designed to encourage people to get COVID vaccinations.

In the past legislative efforts for any type of lottery in Alabama have been mostly unsuccessful. But a Samford law professor and a former federal judge both said the state doesn’t need law for this type of lottery.

The White House COVID Response team is encouraging states to use federal funds from the CARES Act to use as an incentive to increase vaccinations.

“We encourage states to use their creativity to draw attention to vaccines, to get their states and the country to get back to normal as quickly as possible,” Andy Slavitt, Senior Advisor WH COVID Response said.

Samford law school professor and former federal judge John Carroll and his wife have been vaccinated. “It was like a tremendous weight had been lifted off our shoulders and we were ready to resume our activities before COVID hit us,” John Carroll said.

Alabama doesn’t have a lottery law like some of the other states but Carroll said that is not a problem. “An illegal lottery is where you pay or offer to pay in the words of the code something of value to get into this lottery to get something in return,” Carroll said.

Carroll said there is no payment here but a willingness to get a vaccine shot. “You go to a meeting and to get people to stick around we will put all your cards into a hat and whoever wins gets the Alabama Auburn tickets,” Carroll said.

Birmingham City Council President William Parker is very encouraged by the news the city could offer up just such a lottery without a law. “We believe having a lottery within the city of Birmingham will increase the number of people being vaccinated. We are in a race against time. It’s all hands on deck,” Parker said.

The state of Alabama has about 32% of it’s total population vaccinated. Ohio discovered an almost 30% increase in its vaccination rate after offering a lottery.

Parker said they will be working through the weekend but he hopes to see a lottery up and running within 60 days and have the first winner by the end of July.

“The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) continues to encourage persons to take COVID-19 vaccine as a matter of personal health and to protect their families, loved ones, and communities. At this time, ADPH is not participating in incentives for COVID-19 vaccine but understands that some businesses may provide incentives to their COVID-19 vaccinated employees. Should decisions need to be made regarding any participation in lotteries for vaccine in Alabama, this would be a policy decision to be made with other stakeholders,” Dr. Karen Landers, ADPH Deputy State Health Officer said.

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