May 13, 2021 -- As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines begins to decline nationwide, Ohio will try a new tactic to encourage people to get a shot: giving five residents $1 million each, according to The New York Times.
Beginning May 26, the Ohio Lottery will draw the name of one vaccinated person per week for 5 weeks. The “Ohio Vax-a-Million” lottery will be funded with the state’s federal coronavirus relief dollars, Gov. Mike DeWine said during a statewide televised address on Wednesday.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” he wrote in a post on Twitter. “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 drawing will include adults in Ohio who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, he said. The pool of names will come from the Ohio Secretary of State’s public voter registration database. People can also sign up for the drawings on a website if they aren’t in the database.
To be eligible to win, Ohio residents must be 18 or older on the day of the drawing, and they must be vaccinated before the drawing. DeWine said more details will be released in upcoming days.
Under a similar program, five Ohioans ages 12-17 will be eligible for a full 4-year scholarship to one of Ohio’s public universities. Vaccinated teens can sign up for the lottery on an electronic portal that will open May 18, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The drawing will occur on five Wednesdays in a row, and the scholarship will cover tuition, residence, dining, and books.
The announcement spurred mixed reactions on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. Some said the giveaway was better than other state incentive programs offering free beer, gift cards, and savings bonds. Others questioned whether the money could be better spent on broader pandemic relief programs, or whether the lottery complies with federal regulations.
“We’ve gone from 15 days to slow the spread to $1 million if you get the #COVID19 vaccine,” U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in a post on Twitter. “Give me a break.”
During Wednesday’s announcement, DeWine also said the state mask mandate and all remaining coronavirus-related health orders will be lifted on June 2, except for those that affect nursing homes or assisted living facilities. After the state orders expire, schools and businesses will be able to set their own requirements for face masks and social distancing.
“Each Ohio citizen will make their own decision about wearing a mask, social distancing, how to protect themselves and when, for them, those actions are appropriate,” he said.
More than 4.8 million people in Ohio -- or 42% of residents -- have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest tally from the Ohio Department of Health. About 36% of the state population has been fully vaccinated, which is similar to the 35% fully vaccinated nationwide, according to the latest CDC update on Wednesday.