COLUMBUS, Ohio — The names of two lucky Ohioans, an adult and a child, will be announced Wednesday night as the first winners of the state’s Vax-a-Million incentive prizes which include $1 million for those 18 and older and a full-ride college scholarship for teens.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced the program May 12 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.
Four more winners of the $1 million and a college scholarship will be announced each Wednesday for the next four weeks.
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.
Participants must register to enter by phone or via the Vax-a-Million website. Teens can register themselves, but parents or legal guardians must verify their eligibility. The names of entrants who don’t win will be carried over week to week.
“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. Nationally, more than 165 million Americans have started the vaccination process, or about nearly 50% of the population. More than 131 million are fully vaccinated, or nearly 40%.
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, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis says the state will have a weekly lottery for five residents to win $1 million Tuesday to incentive COVID-19 vaccinations. Colorado is setting aside $5 million of federal coronavirus relief funds that would have gone toward vaccine advertising for five residents to win $1 million each.