Penn teams up with the City of Philadelphia to announce vaccine sweepstakes

Wharton Professor Katy Milkman and Mayor Jim Kenney have announced the ‘Philly Vax Sweepstakes,’ which gives vaccinated Philadelphians a chance to win up to $50,000.

gloved hand holding covid vacciine

Penn’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative (BCFG) and Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, and the Black Doctors Consortium has launched the Philly Vax Sweepstakes, a cash reward program designed to encourage Philadelphians to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are delighted to be partnering with the city to encourage vaccination,” says Katy Milkman, a professor of operations, information, and decisions at the Wharton School and a director at the BFCG. “This lottery’s design is unique, and we hope it will meaningfully and measurably increase vaccination rates in Philadelphia, particularly in our most vulnerable communities. We look forward to sharing what we learn about its impact to help our city and others around the country.”

This marks the first program of its kind in a large U.S. city, and the first and only vaccine incentive program that is run by a university. The program will measure the effectiveness of the sweepstakes through real-time research.

“The goal of the program is to deploy a lottery that effectively motivates vaccination, and we’ll attempt to carefully measure the impact of the incentive program to determine how well these types of incentives work,” says Milkman.

A total of 36 Philadelphians will win cash prizes of up to $50,000 across three drawings in the months of June and July. In each of the three drawings on June 21, July 6, and July 19, six individuals will win $1,000; four will win $5,000; and two will win $50,000.

This program will use what behavioral scientists call a “regret lottery,” meaning an unvaccinated person may get selected to win, but will not be able to accept the prize. The Behavior Change for Good team believes this will create extra incentive for those who don’t want to miss their chance at winning.

“Philadelphians might find out they could have won if only they had gotten vaccinated,” says Milkman. “Knowing that’s a possibility can be highly motivating. Just imagine the regret you’d feel if you got that call and discovered you would have won $50,000 if only you’d gotten your vaccine.”

Half of the winners from each drawing will come from a “lucky zip code” with one of Philadelphia’s lowest vaccination rates.

“The Black Doctors COVID19 Consortium is excited to partner with the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Department of Public Health on this initiative,” says Ala Stanford, a pediatric surgeon and founder of the Consortium. “We are very familiar with the priority zip codes as we have provided barrier-free and no-cost testing and vaccinations since April 2020 in these communities. This program is a way to assist communities that were both disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and had fewer testing locations and vaccination sites in their neighborhoods.”

The vaccination sweepstakes was designed by Wharton scientists who study behavior change, and they plan to track the results to learn if cash incentive programs lead to vaccine uptake.

“We plan to measure the results very carefully so we’ll be able to understand if the sweepstakes boosts vaccination rates in Philadelphia compared to surrounding counties, and if selected zips see an extra boost in vaccination rates,” says Milkman. “This should help both Philadelphia and other communities exploring this type of initiative in the future.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Milkman hosted a press conference June 7 to announce the sweepstake.

“This exciting initiative offers an opportunity to reward Philadelphians who have already been vaccinated while also motivating those who haven’t yet,” says Kenney. “I thank our partners at the University of Pennsylvania for making this incredible opportunity possible and encourage all Philadelphians to vax up to win.”

Registration can be completed 24 hours a day in English or Spanish in the following ways: online at; by phone at 1-877-642-5666 from 8 a.m. –to 7 p.m. ET; or by texting “Phillyvax” to 215-608-9799.