Ohio has announced that a woman from the state’s south-west is the first winner of its $1m Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize.
The state also said a Dayton-area teen is the first winner of the program’s full-ride college scholarship. The names were announced Wednesday night at the end of the Ohio Lottery’s Cash Explosion TV show.
Four more winners of the $1m prize and four college scholarship winners will be announced each Wednesday for the next four weeks.
The state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, announced the program 12 May to boost lagging vaccination rates. More than 2.7 million adults registered for the money prize and more than 100,000 children ages 12 to 17 entered for the scholarship, which includes tuition, room and board, and books.
The Ohio Lottery conducted the first drawing Monday afternoon at its draw studio in Cleveland using a random number generator to pick the winners ahead of time, and then confirmed the eligibility of the ultimate winner.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” the governor said when he announced the incentive. But with the vaccine now readily available, the real waste, “is a life lost to Covid-19”, the governor said.
The concept seemed to work, at least initially. The number of people in Ohio age 16 and older who received their initial Covid-19 vaccine jumped 33% in the week after the state announced its million-dollar incentive lottery, according to an Associated Press analysis.
But the same review also found that vaccination rates are still well below figures from earlier in April and March.
More than 5.2 million people in Ohio had at least started the vaccination process as of Monday, or about 45% of the state. About 4.6 million people are done getting vaccinated, or 39% of the state.
Vax-a-Million is open to permanent Ohio residents who have received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their first part of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccination.
DeWine’s proposal inspired similar vaccine-incentive lotteries in Colorado, Maryland, New York state and Oregon.
In Colorado, governor Jared Polis says the state will have a weekly lottery for five residents to win $1m Tuesday, and is using federal coronavirus relief funds to do so.
Other states are also providing incentives to encourage vaccinations.
In New Jersey, residents 21 and older can get a free beer after receiving their first vaccination. Maine residents who get their first shot of the vaccine before the end of May can choose from several outdoor-themed prizes including fishing or hunting licenses or day passes to state parks.