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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.”
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.”