COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN/WCMH) — “It’s not been done before, it’s unusual, but these are unusual times. These are unusual times and I think we have to be bold and I think we have to do everything within our power to get rid of this pandemic and drive it to the ground,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
Gov. DeWine admits the state’s vaccine lottery is out of the box, but believes it will motivate people to get the shot.
If you’ve received one of the COVID-19 vaccines now available, or at least the first dose of the vaccine, you could become a millionaire if you’re at least 18 years old or, if you’re between 12 and 17, attend college for free.
Five $1 million prizes and five scholarships to state universities are up for grabs.
Even before it starts, word of Ohio’s new five-week COVID-19 lottery for cash and college scholarships is making an impact. The state’s top health official says vaccination rates for those 30 to 74 have already jumped.
“We were experiencing a 24 percent decrease week over week for those prior two Fridays. Last Friday, that age group saw a 6 percent increase,” said Dr. Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health.
Beginning next week, the Ohio Lottery will draw two winners on Mondays, one for $1 million and the other for a four-year college scholarship, for those who register with the Ohio Department of Health.
The drawings will take place over five weeks with the winners actually announced at 7:29 p.m. on Wednesdays — May 26 through June 23.
State officials will take time before announcing the winner to determine that the person has been vaccinated. By opting in, a person agrees to let the state check their information. An alternate will be selected in case the winner is ineligible.
Having residents opt in is a change from what Gov. DeWine announced last week — he had said voter rolls would be used in determining who is eligible.
“Using only opt-in registrations, obviously, also greatly increases the chances that someone who is eligible and vaccinated will be drawn as the winner,” Dr. McCloud said.
Beginning Tuesday, May 18, Ohioans who would like to enter the drawings must opt in by visiting ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling the Ohio Department of Health Call Center at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634) between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
A person will only need to enter once for all of the vaccination drawings.
The deadline to register is 11:59 p.m. on the Sunday before each drawing.
But, the “Vax-a-Million” program will have some strings attached. You must be a permanent resident of Ohio, have received at least one dose of vaccine prior to each week’s drawing and willing to sacrifice some of your privacy.
“We will be asking where and when you received your vaccine — what city and state,” Dr. McCloud said.
Any Ohio resident is eligible, even if they were vaccinated out of state.
Winners will not be able to remain anonymous.
“We think it’s public record. We think it’s exciting, entertaining to allow the Ohio residents to know who the winner is,” said Pat McDonald, director of the Ohio Lottery.
State officials insist that using the unspent money from last year’s CARES Act to pay for this is legal since it’s meant to encourage more Ohioans to at least think about getting vaccinated.
“What the state has decided to do is just a different program, a different way to get people talking about the vaccine,” said Mercy Health’s Dr. James Kravec.
Dr. Kravec believes it’s a way to get those who’ve been hesitant to roll up their sleeves.
“The more people we can get vaccinated, the better we will be as a community,” he said.
Winners will be responsible for paying taxes on the prize money.