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Pritzker announces lottery program for COVID-19 vaccine recipients; $1M drawing set for July 8

It’s the latest incentive being offered by the state to entice more people to get their shots; those who have been vaccinated will automatically be entered. 

Gov J.B. Pritzker announces the COVID-19 vaccine lottery program in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in June.
Gov J.B. Pritzker announces a COVID-19 vaccine lottery program Thursday at Access Community Health Network in Back of the Yards.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A shot in the arm is now your shot at a $1 million jackpot.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced Illinois residents who roll up their sleeves for a COVID-19 vaccine by July 1 will be entered into a lottery for cash prizes or scholarships for minors.

It’s the latest incentive being offered by the state to entice more people to get their shots, but those who have already been vaccinated will automatically be entered.

The state has set aside $10 million in total lottery prizes, covered by federal pandemic relief funding.

The first drawing will be held July 8 for a $1 million prize. The campaign will include a total of three drawings for $1 million prizes and 40 drawings for $100,000 prizes. Kids 12 and up who have gotten the shot will be entered in 20 drawings for $150,000 scholarships.

“There’s no signup, no forms, no waiting in line. You did your part already, and this is a way of saying thank you,” Pritzker said. “It’s also our way of saying to those who haven’t yet been vaccinated: please join us.”

The governor’s public health team is looking to the lottery program to boost the state’s daily shot average, which is down to about 41,000 doses given per day over the past week. That’s fallen by about 42% in the last month.

“I think there are still many people that we call the ‘movable middle,’ where they just need a nudge. So if they haven’t done it yet, maybe the chance to win $100,000 or a million dollars or a college scholarship for their child is just that nudge to get them off their seat and get the vaccine,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

With the seven-day average case positivity rate at a pandemic low of 0.7%, COVID-19 is as close to being under control in Illinois as it has been since sweeping the state 15 months ago.

Nearly 70% of Illinoisans 12 or older have gotten a shot and about 46% of the overall population are fully vaccinated, but experts say it’s crucial to get more residents to roll up their sleeves to stem the spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has already detected 64 cases of the latest so-called Delta strain that has raised the concerns of public health experts nationwide. More than 9,000 cases of a handful of other variants have also been identified in Illinois, while thousands more have likely gone undetected.

“As long as the virus is still allowed to circulate, it will have the opportunity to mutate, and as it mutates, that is how you get the new variants,” Ezike said. “We have to stop this virus from circulating before it mutates to the point that we get a variant that threatens the vaccine immunity.”

City officials are also trying to bring the vaccine directly to more rush-hour commuters, as the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Thursday it’ll park its vaccine bus outside select L stations twice a week.

Starting Friday and weekly thereafter, the bus will be posted from 3 to 6:30 p.m. outside the CTA’s Kimball Brown Line, Western Orange Line, 87th Street Red Line and Central Green Line stations.

And on Mondays from 3 to 6:30 p.m., it’ll be outside the 95th Street Red Line, Belmont Blue Line, 35th/Archer Orange Line, 63rd/Ashland Green Line and Kedzie Pink Line stations.

The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be offered. Doses are free, without any insurance or ID required.

For help finding a vaccine appointment elsewhere in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835. The city is offering in-home vaccinations to any resident 65 or older, as well as those with disabilities or underlying health conditions.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find other Illinois providers, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.