Over the last month, the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed in the United States. In response, companies and local governments are offering vaccine incentives. In an effort to convince eligible Americans to get a shot, we’re seeing everything from free Krispy Kreme donuts to free craft beer in Erie County, NY. Now, Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, is offering some people $1 million. In addition to a case of “Well, that escalated quickly,” it’s also a sign that officials are digging even deeper when it comes to getting people vaccinated. DeWine is calling this public health initiative “Ohio Vax-a-Million.”
Raising the Bar for Vaccine Incentives
Of course, not every Ohioan who gets a vaccine is getting $1 million. But over five weeks, five Ohioans 18 or older will have the opportunity to win that sum in a drawing. The state lottery will run the drawings using Ohio’s voter registration database. Winners must be 18 years of age or older, an Ohio resident, and must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is what is known as a “regret lottery.” Everybody enters, but only those who have a dose of the vaccine can win. Currently, 42 percent of eligible Ohio residents have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Democratic and Republican state lawmakers have criticized DeWine’s use of federal relief funds to pay for the lottery. But, that has not seemed to deter Ohio’s Republican governor.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” DeWine says. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic—when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who want it—is a life lost to COVID-19.”
For Ohioans between the ages of 12 and 17, there’s a separate incentive program. If they win the drawing, they’ll get a full, four-year scholarship to an Ohio university. This offer includes tuition, room-and-board, and books. Unlike the Vax-a-Million incentive, younger Ohio residents will need to register for the college drawing.
Earlier this month, President Biden set a July 4 goal to have 70 percent of eligible Americans to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. With that number now at 58 percent, it seems that some people need more motivation than simply immunization. Of course, if you live in Ohio, there’s now a million reasons to get the jab.