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.
Two weeks from tonight on May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive one million dollars.
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
“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 pool of names for the drawing will be derived from the Ohio Secretary of State’s publicly available voter registration database. Further, we will make available a webpage for people to sign up for the drawings if they are not in a database we are using.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
The Ohio Department of Health will be the sponsoring agency for the drawings, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct them. The money will come from existing federal Coronavirus Relief Funds.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years of age or older on the day of the drawing. You must be an Ohio resident. And, you must be vaccinated before the drawing.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
We will have further, specific details tomorrow and in the days ahead.
I know that some may say, “DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.” But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic -- when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it -- is a life lost to COVID-19.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) May 12, 2021
“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.
So there’s an expendable $5,000,000 from the Covid Relief Fund and you thought (while people are still out of work and countless businesses are permanently closed) the best idea was to give it away to five people?— Joe Ski (@JahD1191) May 12, 2021
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.
America offers donuts, beer, and now lottery tickets to incentivize the COVID19 vaccine whereas people are dying across the world in places with NO access to the vaccine.
Talk about privilege
— Daniel Colón Hidalgo (@dch1309) May 12, 2021
There are also questions about the legality of the program. Experts expect it to be challenged in court.