Get vaccinated for a shot at US$1m weekly lottery

Business | Associated Press 14 May 2021

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has unveiled a lottery system to entice people to get Covid-19 shots, offering a weekly US$1 million (HK$7.8 million) prize and full-ride college scholarships in a creative bid to overcome the vaccine hesitancy that remains a stubborn problem across the nation.

The move comes as governors, health officials and community leaders are coming up with creative incentives to get more shots in arms, including insider access to NFL locker rooms and an Indianapolis 500 garage, cash incentives and various other promotions.

With three weeks to go before most state restrictions lift, DeWine rolled out the big-ticket incentives during a prime-time address.

Beginning May 26, adults who have received at least one vaccine dose may enter a lottery that will provide a US$1 million prize each Wednesday for five weeks.

In random drawings, the state will also provide five full four-year scholarships to an Ohio public university - including tuition, room-and-board and books - to vaccinated Ohioans under 18. The money will come from existing federal pandemic relief dollars, DeWine said, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings.

But State Representative Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, questioned the use of federal funds.

"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.

DeWine acknowledged the unusual nature of the financial incentives. "I know that some may say, DeWine, you're crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,''' he said. "But the real waste, when the vaccine is now readily available, is a life lost to Covid-19.''

The White House and Treasury Department had no immediate comment on the governor's plan.

All Ohio's Covid orders except those applying to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will end June 2, the governor also announced during the address.

However, he noted that stores and businesses still may require customers to be masked.

In announcing the mandates' end, he cited the sharp drop in the numbers of Covid cases and hospitalizations and the high vaccination rates among people aged 65 and above. He also said the vaccine is a "tested and proven weapon'' that all is now available to all Ohioans aged 12 and above.

"It's time to end the health orders. It's been a year. You've followed the protocols,'' DeWine said. "You've done what we've asked. You've bravely fought this virus.''

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from about 1,522 new cases per day on April 26 to 1,207 new cases per day on May 10, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 4.2 million Ohioans - about 36 percent of the population - had completed the vaccination process as of Tuesday.

But the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week - down from figures above 80,000 in April.

About 42 percent of Ohioans have received at least one dose.

Business groups uniformly praised the decision. "The news is the logical next step in fully reopening our state for Ohio's businesses and families,'' said John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

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