Note: The news conference can be watched live in the video player above beginning at around 12 p.m.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a new incentive to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19: free tickets to Six Flags.
Six Flags Great America is donating 50,000 free tickets to the amusement parks in Gurnee and Rockford to newly vaccinated Illinois residents, Pritzker's office said in a statement, noting that the value of the tickets is $4 million.
Pritzker is set to announce the new incentive to "get vaccinated and get back to summer fun" during a news conference at 12 p.m. at Six Flags Great America in north suburban Gurnee, according to his public schedule. The news conference can be watched live in the video player above.
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As part of the effort, the state is sending Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams to the park's Gurnee location on June 5 and 6, and if turnout is high they will return on other days to continue vaccinations, officials said.
Pritzker's office said Six Flags will announce more details on the vaccination effort and free tickets in the coming weeks.
A "significant portion" of the tickets will also be distributed to local health departments to "use in the way that will best work in their community," Pritzker's office said. Chicago, Cook County and the collar counties will in turn roll out their own specific initiatives like mobile teams in areas with lower vaccination rates, school-based clinics, full-family vaccination initiatives and more, with information available on a county-by-county basis.
"Six Flags Great America is proud to support the state of Illinois vaccination efforts, especially in underrepresented communities,” Six Flags Great America Park President Hank Salemi said in a statement. “We’re getting back to the thrills and want to do our part to encourage residents to get vaccinated.”
Pritzker's office noted that the new initiative comes the day after federal regulators authorized emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on children between the ages of 12 and 15.
The ticket incentive was also unveiled as authorities say demand for vaccinations has fallen in Illinois and nationwide, prompting health officials to expand outreach and programs to reach those who have not yet gotten their shots or may be hesitant to do so.
Illinois is "going to ramp down" the number of COVID vaccine doses it orders from the federal government each week as demand for the shots declines, Pritzker said Monday, announcing a new program to deploy vaccination teams to workplaces and commercial buildings.
"Illinois, like the nation as a whole, has reached a point where, by and large, all the people who were immediately eager to get vaccinated, have already been vaccinated," Pritzker said.
"That means instead of facing a shortage, requiring us to conserve every drop of vaccine and demanding patience from everyone who wants to get vaccinated, we now have vaccine available to anyone who wants a shot, whenever they want one. That's why we can now broaden the number and type of locations where people can get vaccinated," he continued.
Illinois has received a total of 12,584,525 doses of the three COVID vaccines available in the U.S. and has administered a 10,110,969 shots as of Wednesday. More than 4.6 million people - roughly 36% of the state's population - are fully vaccinated.
State and local governments in some cases have turned to incentivizing getting the shots to increase rates of vaccination, as have companies in encouraging their employees.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday unveiled a new lottery offering five $1 million prizes to residents of the state 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, he announced.
The prize money will come from federal pandemic relief funding, DeWine said, and 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 online.
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 also getting in on the action, giving away 50 free tickets to Super Bowl LVI, set to take place next February in Los Angeles.
Back in Illinois, a new bill in the state legislature looks to let bars and restaurants give out a free alcoholic drink to customers who have gotten vaccinated.
House Bill 4078 would allow establishments with liquor licenses to give customers a free drink if they show proof that they've gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, as part of a promotional campaign incentivizing getting vaccinated.
The measure, if passed and signed into law, would only be valid for six months after its effective date. The bill was introduced Tuesday and sent to the House Rules Committee, awaiting further action.