Editorials, Opinion

They still won’t do it for Babydog

It’s official — “Do It for Babydog: Round 3” is up and running, with registration open now and the first drawing scheduled for this coming week.

Because the vaccine lottery’s first two rounds worked so well …

We imagine West Virginia’s child vaccination efforts will chart much like its adult vaccination statistics: There will be an early surge that puts West Virginia near the top of states in successfully immunizing children ages 5 to 17 against COVID-19, and then there will be a sharp drop that once again lands the Mountain State at the bottom of the vaccination ranks.

Kudos to Gov. Jim Justice for at least attempting to make Round 3 work by gearing the prizes towards parents of school-aged kids. Babydog is giving 25 kids a $10,000 educational savings fund each week, with one lucky child receiving a $50,000 educational savings fund — and their school a matching check — each week. The grand finale will be a $100,000 educational savings fund winner, and a $100,000 check for that student’s school. 

No denying that having money to set aside for a child’s education (and a nice fat check for chronically underfunded schools) will be a boon to each of the winners. But that’s a lot a money for statistically minimal success.

Between the very first Do It for Babydog drawing  June 20 and the last drawing of Round 1  Aug. 10, West Virginia’s fully vaccinated population increased by about 5%. Between the first drawing of Round 2  Aug. 31 and the last  Oct. 8, the fully vaccinated population only increased by approximately 3%. (Calculations for Round 2 were adjusted to accommodate news the CDC had double counted vaccines given at pharmacies.)            

The lotteries have had little success, because by the time Justice debuted his vaccine incentives, the people who wanted to be vaccinated had already gotten their shots. Then we hit the brick wall of staunch anti-COVID vaxxers. Any headway made since likely has more to do with employer and government vaccine mandates than with the appeal of Babydog’s prizes.

Which is why Justice’s optimism for Round 3 is misplaced: The people who only vaccinated themselves under duress or still refuse to vaccinate at all are extremely unlikely to allow their children to get the COVID vaccine, no matter what the governor offers.

If Justice wants to see children ages 5 to 17 get their shots, his best bet is to implement a vaccine mandate as a condition of attending in-person school.

West Virginia state code already says, “a child entering school or a state-regulated child care center in this state must be immunized against chickenpox, hepatitis B, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough.” School children also have to have boosters and/or proof of immunization for tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis and meningococcal/meningitis before entering the seventh and 12th grades.

Justice should rally the Legislature to add COVID-19 to that list.

The faster our children are vaccinated, the faster school for them — and life for the rest of us — can go back to normal.