Ohio is encouraging more residents to get COVID vaccines by offering them scholarships and $1 million lottery prizes
COVID-19 vaccines are now plentiful in the U.S., and anyone 12 and up who wants to get vaccinated is eligible. But the next big hurdle for politicians and public health officials is addressing the large percentage of Americans who don’t want the vaccine — around 30 percent of all adults, according to many surveys. Some leaders are turning to incentives for those who get vaccinated, like free donuts or beer. But Ohio is going way, way further — the state will begin offering full-ride scholarships and $1 million lottery prizes to residents who get their vaccines.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the program on Wednesday. He said the state plans to award five random adults who get vaccinated against COVID-19 with $1 million each. Five young people who get vaccinated will be given full-ride, four-year scholarships to public colleges and universities.
“Getting [our 12- to 17-year-olds] vaccinated is so important that we will have a separate incentive for them,” DeWine said during his announcement of this program.
“The number of Ohioans who get the vaccine will determine, frankly, what our future looks like,” he continued. “Everyone has a stake in more Ohioans getting vaccinated.”
Funding for the Ohio incentive program will come from federal COVID relief funds the state has received, according to DeWine’s tweets.
It’s still not perfectly clear how this is going to work. Apparently, any adult who receives at least one dose of a COVID vaccine in Ohio by May 26 can enter a special lottery, which will hold a drawing each Wednesday for five weeks, giving away one $1 million prize each week. Teens ages 12 to 17 can register through an online portal beginning May 18 to be eligible for the scholarship, which will cover tuition and room and board. Those drawings will also be held each Wednesday for five consecutive weeks.
Reactions to the program have been pretty critical, especially considering Ohio’s use of federal relief funds.
The state’s top House Democrat, Rep. Emilia Sykes, also questioned the use of federal funding for a program like this.
“Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis,” she said.
People have also criticized the program over the fact that wealthy nations like the U.S. have more than enough vaccine doses for everyone and are now working to incentivize hesitant citizens. Meanwhile, poorer countries without access to vaccines are being ravaged by the virus.
There are also questions about the legality of the program. Experts expect it to be challenged in court.