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Ohio is having a 'vaccine lottery' giving $1 million prizes to 5 people who simply do the right thing

In an attempt to get more residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has announced a truly unexpected incentive program.

"Two weeks from tonight on May 26th," DeWine wrote on Twitter yesterday, "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."

That's right. Five people in Ohio who have received at least their first vaccine dose will receive $1 million.


DeWine explained that the names will be drawn from Ohio's voter registration base, and people can also sign up for the drawings on a website to be made available soon. The drawings will be conducted by the Ohio Lottery.

The governor also noted that the $5 million would come from federal Coronavirus Relief Funds that the state has on hand.

A few rules apply: You have to be 18 years or older, an Ohio resident, and have gotten your first vaccine dose before the drawing.

"I know that some may say, 'DeWine, you're crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'" the governor wrote. "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."

The reactions to the news were predictably all over the place. Some people are hardcore anti-vaccination and won't be swayed by such an incentive, but for those on the fence or who just haven't gotten around to making an appointment, perhaps the notion of winning a million dollars will push them to do it. If nothing else, it's a pretty sweet reward for those who are participating in this important public health measure to end the pandemic.

Some people are questioning whether or not a lottery with big prizes for a handful of people is really the most efficient use of COVID relief funds. Certainly it seems like it could be more effective than putting up posters or making public service announcements, but is it better than using the money to provide easier access to communities where access is more limited? Time will tell.

Some have pointed out that the odds of winning this lottery are much better than the odds of winning the normal state lottery, without even having to buy a lottery ticket. Those odds might incentivize people to get to the clinic—which is a little ironic considering the folks who are afraid to get vaccinated but aren't afraid of COVID may not have the best understanding of odds in the first place.


It also might help that the push is coming from Ohio's GOP governor, since the largest demographic of vaccine hesitancy is particularly high among people with conservative leanings. The fact that a conservative politician is willing to spend money to spend taxpayer funds to incentivize getting vaccinated sends a message about how important it is.

Polling backs up the idea as well. A survey from Morning Consult found that 3 out of 5 unvaccinated adults say a big financial incentive would sway them to get the COVID-19 shot. Hard to say if a chance of a big payout would do the same, but considering people's penchant for playing the lottery, it's worth a shot.

We'll see if the gamble pays off in the coming weeks, but kudos to Ohio leadership for doing something creative to try to increase vaccination rates. The more people we get immunized, the closer we will be to ending the pandemic and returning to some semblance of normalcy.

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