Officials across the United States are looking for creative solutions to overcome coronavirus vaccine hesitancy that remains a stubborn problem across the nation, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine upped the ante in a big way.
DeWine unveiled a lottery system Wednesday to entice people to get COVID-19 shots, offering five $1 million prizes and five full-ride college scholarships to residents who have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
The drawings will begin on May 26, and will occur on each successive Wednesday for five consecutive weeks.
Get Chicago local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Chicago newsletters.
The pool of names for the drawing will be taken from the Ohio Secretary of State’s voter registration database. Residents will also be able to sign up via a website that will launch on May 18 if their name isn’t in the voter database.
Residents must be 18 years or age, and must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be eligible for the drawing.
The money will come from existing federal pandemic relief dollars, DeWine said, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings.
Additionally, DeWine announced 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 17 years old and younger.
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 during a prime-time address announcing the big-ticket incentives. But the real waste, when the vaccine is now readily available, “is a life lost to COVID-19,” the governor said.
The White House and Treasury Department had no immediate comment on the governor’s plan.
More than 4.2 million Ohioans — about 36% 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% of Ohioans have received at least one dose.
“There comes a time when individual responsibility simply must take over," DeWine said.
The drawings are the latest effort by state and local officials and private companies to encourage residents to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
In Alabama, residents who get their coronavirus vaccine shots on May 15 will be allowed to take a lap around the world-famous Talladega Superspeedway.
In New York City, residents who get their Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots prior to Mets and Yankees games will get a free ticket to a future game.
The NFL is getting in on the action as well, giving away 50 free tickets to Super Bowl LVI, set to take place next February in Los Angeles.