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Braid: Early lottery confusion as government races to halt vaccination drop

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The government’s special Open for Summer vaccination lottery has plenty of competition.

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Prizes are $1 million for a first draw soon, followed by second and third draws in late summer and fall.

By extreme contrast, a $5 Lotto Max ticket might win you $70 million in Tuesday’s draw.

A 6/49 ticket for $3 could be worth $5 million on Wednesday.

The little vaccination draw seems paltry in this company, even though there’s no price tag — except making time to get a jab.

Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro are both concerned that the campaign is on the verge of stalling. They’ve rolled out the lottery so quickly that some questions were left hanging at a Monday news conference.

Hesitation is showing up now that many people who wanted shots have received them. Eighteen per cent of Albertans — the highest level in the country — say they won’t be vaccinated or remain very reluctant.

Appointments for first doses have dropped sharply in the past week.

Vaccination lotteries have raised rates in some U.S. states. This one will probably help, although it’s already controversial. (These days, what isn’t?)

Many people are furious that the government will spend $3 million to reward people who are only doing what they should have been doing all along.

Others assume the lottery is just for those who haven’t been vaccinated yet.

But any Albertan 18 or older can enter no matter when they were vaccinated, and even if they’re not vaccinated yet, according to Kenney and Shandro. A single registration makes a person eligible for all three draws.

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The online registration form, however, suggests a person only can register after getting a first shot – the first confusion.

In any case, it’s simple to register at Alberta.ca/lottery.

Obviously, a winner must be vaccinated to claim the jackpot.

Here’s where it gets complicated — and almost comical, if anything about COVID-19 is ever funny.

At Monday’s news conference, I asked what would happen if an unvaccinated person’s name was drawn for one of the big prizes.

Could that person run out to get a jab and then claim the $1 million?

That would make the lottery a great vaccination incentive — for one person.

Premier Kenney said: “At each stage the eligibility cut-off to enter the draw will be about a week before the draw happens.”

Then he seemed to reverse: “What if they get drawn and then run out to get proof of vaccination — I think we’re going to allow that, is that right?

He was asking Shandro, who stepped to the mic.

“The easiest thing is for people to just enter with a minimum amount of information, and if they’re drawn, then for them to be able to prove they’ve been vaccinated.”

Yes, but vaccinated when — before or after the draw?

“That’s a good question; we’ll have to get back to you on that,” Shandro said.

Some time later, a health official sent messages.

On the question of delaying vaccination until after the draw, the answer is: “The winner’s immunization record must indicate that they received a first dose prior to the lottery registration window closing at 11:59 p.m. on the seventh day after Alberta’s chief medical officer of health determines that 70 per cent of vaccine-eligible Albertans have received their first dose.”

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That sounds as complicated as applying for a passport in Albania.

In plain English, the answer is yes — you obviously have to be vaccinated before the draw.

Kenney and Shandro were out to boost a lottery that has been hastily conceived over the past few days. Not for the first time, they were fuzzy on some details.

For this, they’re accused of writing policy on the back of napkins, etc. It’s almost true, but hardly surprising.

This pandemic has been one rolling series of crises and panicky adjustments. The crucial priority now is to prevent the vaccination rate from dropping just as the campaign is on the verge of real success.

Some days the exhaustion shows.

-Don Braid/Postmedia Network

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