Five vaccinated Ohioans will win $1 million each through a new lottery announced Wednesday, in one of the largest financial incentives announced by a state to combat declining demand for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Starting May 26, the state will award $1 million each week to an adult who has received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine said. There will be five total drawings.
"I know that some may say, 'DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'" the governor said during an address Wednesday. "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 state will draw names from the Ohio secretary of state’s publicly available voter registration database. People can also sign up through an online portal.
Winners must be Ohio residents, at least 18 years old on the day of the drawing and be vaccinated before the drawing.
The drawings will be conducted by the Ohio Lottery, with money coming from existing federal COVID-19 relief funds, the governor said.
The state will also hold a weekly lottery starting May 26 for those 17 and younger who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. Five winners will receive a full, four-year scholarship to a State of Ohio university, which includes tuition, room-and-board and books, DeWine announced.
Students can sign up on an online portal starting May 18. Children as young as 12 are now able to get vaccinated, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for those ages 12 to 15 this week.
More details on the drawings will be shared in the coming days.
Over 4.8 million people ages 18 and up in Ohio -- 53.4% of that population -- have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, 58.7% of those ages 18 and up have gotten at least one dose.
The drawings are among the grandest incentives yet offered by states to encourage residents, especially the vaccine-hesitant, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In recent weeks, states and cities have been enticing people with free beer, pizza, train tickets and scholarship money.
These incentives could be the "carrot" people need to get vaccinated, experts say, as vaccine demand slips nationwide. Vaccination numbers have dropped from an average of over 3 million daily doses administered a month ago to now under 2 million, according to CDC data.
Ohio's announcement comes as the state is also planning to end all COVID-19 health orders on June 2 -- including on mask and social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions -- except in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
"This will give anyone who has not been vaccinated time to get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna and be well on the way to full immunity," DeWine said Wednesday.
"Now, lifting these orders does not mean the virus is gone. It does not mean we are all safe," he said. "Each Ohio citizen will make their own decisions about wearing a mask and social distancing -- and when, for them, that’s appropriate."