Here’s another reason for you to get your coronavirus vaccine shots: The Massachusetts vaccine lottery, unveiled earlier this week, offers a chance to put a million bucks in the bank, and with better odds than popular state lottery tickets offer.
And here’s an even better play: The odds are even higher of winning the massive $300,000 educational grants being awarded to 12- to 17-year-olds.
Here’s how it works:
People 18 and older and fully vaccinated are eligible to enter the VaxMillions Giveaway lottery. They can be eligible in up to five drawings, each for a $1 million prize, depending on how early they sign up.
A person’s chance of winning any individual drawing will be 1 in however many people have entered by that time, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office said.
More than 3.8 million adults in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated, according to federal data. So let’s say 3 million participate in the first drawing. The chance of winning would be 1 in 3 million.
Those are long odds, for sure. But they’re far better than the chances of winning a million dollars when buying a $2 ticket for Powerball (1 in 11.7 million) or for Mega Millions (1 in 12.6 million).
“The chances are the greatest of winning the lottery on the first drawing,” said Mark Glickman, senior lecturer in statistics at Harvard University. “If there’s a strategy to be invoked here, you should make sure to enter on the first drawing.”
If the state’s plan to spur vaccinations works, by the time the second drawing comes around, more people will have gotten shots and entered, so your odds of winning will be somewhat lower. Let’s say that for the second drawing another 500,000 people have entered. So your odds would be 1 in 3.5 million.
But wait, don’t forget, you get multiple chances — up to five if you entered at the earliest opportunity. So that will increase your overall chance of winning a cool million.
For example, if the state has gone vaccine crazy by the fifth drawing and 5 million people have signed up, your chances would be 1 in 5 million.
But your overall chances throughout the sweepstakes would be somewhere north of 5 in 5 million (or 1 in 1 million), because you had five tries and your odds were better each time in the four earlier drawings that had fewer contestants, Glickman explained. (The exact odds would depend on how many people were added to the pool each time after the first drawing, he said.)
In this example, your overall odds after five drawings, better than 1 in a million, are about 12 times better than playing Mega Millions or Powerball.
Pro tip: Want to triple or quadruple your chances? Get friends or relatives vaccinated, and sign them up.
A different, sad way your chances could get better is if the residents of Massachusetts are so unenthusiastic about getting shots and winning a million dollars that many of them don’t sign up.
Now let’s look at those educational grants, which offer $300,000 to young people dreaming of building a bright future. The odds are even better for them.
The Department of Public of Health says that around 178,000 12- to 17-year-olds had been fully vaccinated as of Thursday morning.
Let’s say a big chunk of that group, 150,000, signs up for the first drawing. That means the odds of a single young person winning a full ride to college in the first drawing would be 1 in 150,000.
Not bad, particularly when you consider the Lottery’s $100,000 Money Stacks scratch ticket. It costs $2 and offers a player a 1 in 2.5 million chance of winning $100,000.
And remember, if a young person signs up early enough to be in multiple drawings, the overall chances of winning will improve, just as they did in the example above for the million-dollar jackpots.
Note that you can always increase your chances of winning the state lottery by buying more tickets, but that costs more money. And you can’t beat the price of entering the vaccine lottery: It’s free.
Of course, in the end, the odds of winning anything are very low. You have a much better chance of being hit by lightning, for example, according to the National Weather Service. But officials are hoping that offering this prospect of easy riches will push the state’s vaccination coverage even higher.
The signup period begins July 1. Weekly drawings begin the week of July 26. The deadlines for signing up for the first and subsequent drawings haven’t been announced. For more details, click here.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.