Get a shot, earn a shot at winning $2,000: The ethics of Arviat’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery

Hamlet mayor says the draw is a way to combat misinformation and thank the community for getting through this winter’s outbreak

Arviat elders wait to be vaccinated in January at the community’s Mark Kalluak Hall. As public health measures ease, Arviat residents can now gather in public spaces like the hall in groups of no more than 50. (File photo)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Five lucky Arviat residents will have their names drawn to win $2,000 cash on Tuesday, all because they rolled up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.

A vaccine lottery is a “great way to promote something that will help the community,” said Adrienne Tattuinee, who lives in Arviat.

Tattuinee said she’s heard some in the community say the draw is unethical, and knows of one person who is “outraged.”

She points out the vaccine is positive for the community and people have the ability to get educated and make their own decision about whether to get it.

Kerry Bowman is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and a bioethicist who does cross-cultural research with the university’s Joint Centre for Bioethics.

He says the idea is certainly uncommon, and in general, people should not be offered incentives for things like this.

“You want to give people the facts and they make a free and autonomous decision,” he said.

But other factors make Arviat’s draw less concerning, he said, like the fact that the idea came from the community.

On top of that, Bowman said, what goes on in Indigenous communities really needs to stay in the hands of Indigenous people.

“If someone in the federal government was initiating [the draw] I’d be a little more uncomfortable, but Canada has multiple unique societies and you really have to apply a cultural lens [to the issue],” he said.

“If you had people that were desperately poor and they thought, ‘The only way I’m going to eat is to join this lottery,’” there could be an ethical problem, said Bowman.

“But that’s not what’s going on.”

Arviat Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. said the draw is intended to incentivize the vaccine, which has been thoroughly tested and is safe.

“There was lots of misinformation going around social media, which made people fear getting the vaccine,” he said.

But that’s not the only reason.

Savikataaq Jr. said the draw is intended to be a way to give back to the community after a COVID-19 outbreak ended there earlier this month.

“This town has gone through a lot,” the mayor said.

“No other town went through what Arviat went through.”

The hamlet, with a population of approximately 2,700, was the epicentre of Nunavut’s outbreak last year, with 222 infections and one death.

Savikataaq Jr. said he hasn’t heard any negative backlash since the draw was announced.

More than 850 Arviat residents had been inoculated since the first vaccines were administered on Jan. 13 and then at clinics last week, not counting the vaccinations given on Monday, the last day of the clinic, said Savikataaq Jr.

That represents about 45 per cent of the hamlet’s eligible, adult population, 1,855.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said in a Jan. 13 news conference in Ottawa that Inuit leaders wanted information about the vaccine translated into Inuktitut and local dialects so people could be fully informed about it.

Some documents have been translated into Inuktitut and information is being spread through social media posts and radio messaging, according to an email from his office.

The minister’s spokesperson, Adrienne Vaupshas, acknowledged why vaccine hesitancy may be more present in Indigenous communities.

“For example, historical treatment of tuberculosis patients at Indian hospitals or sanatoriums, and reports from residential school survivors of being experimented on while at residential schools,” she wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer said “each community has the right and the need to do what they think is correct,” responding to a question about the ethics of the draw in a news conference on Jan. 14.

Communities across Nunavut are in charge of how they roll out vaccination clinics and run vaccination campaigns in their communities.

In total, 2,141 vaccines have been administered across Nunavut, according to the territorial government’s online tracker, updated on Jan. 18.

Cambridge Bay residents are next on the list to get vaccinated, with a clinic running from Jan. 14 to 16.

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by InukGuy on

    Only way for resident of Arviat to be convinced by something is
    to have a cash prize and only way to get most people vaccinated

    • Posted by Kenneth Kristiansen on

      In Greenland No such efforts have been made and south greenland still have not got the vaccination yet

  2. Posted by No Moniker on

    I am consistently disturbed by the trend of contemporary philosophers in academia to allow cultural relativism and genetic fallacies to direct their arguments as if such casual bastardization of the reasoning process will not only go unnoticed but will yield unassailably valid and sound conclusions.
    Simply put: if offering monetary incentives for vaccination in unethical, it is unethical regardless of who does it.

    Consider the following:

    “If you had people that were desperately poor and they thought, ‘The only way I’m going to eat is to join this lottery,’” there could be an ethical problem, said Bowman. “But that’s not what’s going on.”

    How do we know that there are not elements of this happening? Given the poverty rate in Arviat, it seems quite plausible that for some people it is.

    Also, the Premier says “ the draw is intended to incentivize the vaccine.” Of course, this is true, but the real question are these good or bad incentives?

    • Posted by games on

      Isn’t there a book/movie series kind of based on this? Oh yeah it’s called the Hunger Games, not that this idea is anyway the same.
      Go watch them or read the books good series all around.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        I’ve seen the movies, great actors whose talent was a little underused. Still, decent entertainment.

  3. Posted by Arviat on

    It took a lot of outside influence to “help” Arviat get their act together and finally reduce the spread. And by help I mean outside public scrutiny; even from high ranking authorities. Now they still can’t figure out that this is a serious matter and must resort to bribes to get the community healthy.
    Instead of getting the vaccine because of an informed decision, people are getting it to win money. For a population that is shown to be well under the poverty line is this ethical… NO!

  4. Posted by Consistency on

    Really with all the troubles Arviat went through with lockdown for 2 months and also 5 – $2k draws if you get the vaccine… but still less then 50% of the over 18 pop got vaccinated? also over all for Nunavut the numbers the GN is providing is not looking very optimistic. Looking at the community numbers for Igloolik, Gjoa, Cam, and Arviat that still has the over 18 vaccinated number below 50%. Also Igloolik only had 2 days, and if someone was sick/ out hunting / couldnt line up child care for those days then they are out of luck untill… who knows when the 2nd round will start.
    I hope they publish the exact number of vaccinated per community. and hope the communities yet to come get out and get vaccinated.

    • Posted by numbers on

      it is not less than 50% of the over 18 pop.
      “That represents about 32 per cent of the hamlet’s total population…”
      census profile of Arviat from 2016 about 1,400 +/- over the age of 18.
      Soooo. “More than 850 Arviat residents had been inoculated…” and that’s not including the last day. You do the math.

  5. Posted by Is that you talkin…? on

    Similar “door prize” initiatives were happening in some communities years ago as part of local efforts to encourage individuals to take their TB medication. Nothing has changed.

  6. Posted by prizes for everything not uncommon in NU on

    this is not uncommon for just about anything in Nunavut. The flue shot clinics also had prize incentives. Want to have a meeting and ask public to attend you better have door prizes and free drinks and goodies. Want to have hold a public fun day.. you better have free food and prizes for all. Want to have kids finish a grade in school you better have great prizes, bikes, laptops computers, IPads. Fishing derbies cash prizes up to 10000.00 for largest fish, bingos with cash prizes 4-5000 for weekly or the big 25,000 for Christmas bingos.
    This is not just one community that runs like this this is everywhere in NU. – must have extra bonus society- that wants more then just a service or event… which is also free.

  7. Posted by Umingmak on

    It’s honestly a great idea. Good on the Hamlet for being creative in finding a way to increase community buy-in!

  8. Posted by aupti on


  9. Posted by uvanga on

    I am being vaccinated, too bad I’m not in Arviat to get a chance to win that money. Or other communities have have cash incentives and door prizes.

  10. Posted by Inuk on

    What about the second dose? So the first dose doesn’t count?

  11. Posted by From Arviat on

    When I went to get vaccine at the hall, I did not even thought about the money as incentive, I went, because vaccine is good for me, after sciencetist all over looked to find the cure for covid 19. On my way out the other end of the door, Hamlet employee ask, if I want to have my name for a draw, why not.

  12. Posted by ᐊᕐᕕᐊᕐᒥᐅᑕᖅ on

    Majority of us, if not all in Arviat got our vaccination because we know what Covid 19 can do. That is why I got mine and will go for the next one without hesitation. It is all about fighting the unseen enemy and if the vaccine will help us fight it, we will do it again. It is all about survival and if we need help from a needle, so be it.
    What happened in the past had no bearing on my decision to get vaccinated because I can do research and find information to make a sound decision. Listening to Dr. Patterson and others who are there to help us get over this horrible time, helped me calm down and go for the vaccine.
    Being an elder, I am learning how to separate the past and the present to plan for the future, my future. The choices I make are mine.

    • Posted by Jane on

      Glad to hear you are getting the vacinne, and that you have educated yourself with research to come to that decision. I hope your community can all see the value and follow your lead. And by all means, put your name in the draw on your way out…I would too!
      Good health to you and your community.

  13. Posted by Nunavut rezident on

    Arviat has an awesome Mayor! Rankin has an awesome Mayor! Taloyoak has a young smart Mayor, where are you other Mayor’s?

  14. Posted by Delbert on

    What ever it takes. Let’s just get the population vaccinated.

  15. Posted by Tooma on

    Are there restrictions for people who did not get the shot? Travel restrictions, etc.

  16. Posted by Survivor of 19 on

    And yes, Arviat people are still standing, even after some really bad comments made to us, even from the so called minister of health of GN, WE ARE SO PROUD THAT WE DID IT!

    All I can say is, good luck to next community who will go through what we went through, and DO NOT USE US AS AN EXAMPLE! if you think what we did was wrong..

    • Posted by aputi on

      Make Arviat Great Again!

  17. Posted by The bots on

    Moderate your Facebook post for this story. You attracted some antivaxx bots overnight.

  18. Posted by Thx on

    Thanks for the story. I was concerned about ethical issues associated with this practice and am glad it was raised.

Comments are closed.