Amazon Worker Who Won $1 Million Delighted He Can Now Pay His Bills

Jonathan Carlyle said the Ohio vaccine lottery directly contributed to his decision to get the shot.
June 3, 2021, 5:08pm
​A screenshot of Jonathan Carlyle from a press conference after he won the Ohio vaccination lottery.
A screenshot of Jonathan Carlyle from a press conference after he won the Ohio vaccination lottery. (State of Ohio)

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An Amazon delivery driver is about to be $1 million richer, thanks to Ohio’s bizarre, catchy bid to get more people in the state vaccinated against COVID-19 by promising cash or scholarships. 

“I got a lot of bills to pay,” Jonathan Carlyle, a Toledo resident, said after winning the state’s Vax-a-Million jackpot Wednesday, according to local media outlets. He was still wearing his work uniform. “So, that’s the first thing that’s gonna happen.” 

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Carlyle said that the chance of winning the lottery directly contributed to his decision to get the vaccine. 

“I kept hemming and hawing about it. And I work all the time. And when the Vax-a-Million thing started, I immediately went down there and got it.” 

Carlyle said he might buy a house, too.

Ohio has bet big that spending millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds for a handful of grand prizes will get more shots into arms, so the fact that Carlyle rushed to get the vaccine as soon as a carrot was dangled means things are going according to plan. Adult residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine can enter for one of five $1 million prizes, while kids ages 12 to 17 can get a scholarship to a state school. 

Other states and businesses are catching on too, with hopes of beating back a decline of people interested in getting the jab. The U.S. has a little more than a month to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of having at least 70 percent of adult Americans receive one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by July 4.

Some 63 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far, according to CDC data.

Depending on where someone is located, other vaccine perks include free fries from Shake Shack, various cash prizes, gift cards, alcohol, or a free dinner with New Jersey’s governor, for some reason. In an even more extreme example, vaccinated West Virginians can win $1 million, weekend getaways, guns, scholarships, and more in a weekly lottery that will start later this month and continue through August. 

Scores of people have entered Ohio’s vaccine lottery, and there’s been a slight increase in the number of people getting vaccinated, according to WCMH in Columbus. More winners of the lottery—which requires that participants get vaccinated and opt in via telephone or a special website—will be announced each Wednesday, through June 23.

Carlyle wasn’t the only Ohioan to luck out on Wednesday. Zoie Vincent of Ohio’s Mayfield Village will get a  full-ride scholarship—including four years of tuition, books, and room and board—at an Ohio public university, the Ohio Department of Health announced Wednesday. 

And officials seem pretty pleased with themselves. 

“Vax-a-Million has not been without critics,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wrote in the New York Times last week. “Some politicians and elected officials have called it ‘a gimmick,’ an ‘insane $5 million bribe,’ a ‘misuse of money’ and ‘a waste of taxpayer dollars.’ But the real waste—when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it—is not doing enough to save people’s lives.”