U.S.|Ohio Lottery to Give 5 People $1 Million Each to Encourage Vaccination
To the many propositions that governments have used to try to bolster slumping demand for the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio raised the ante considerably on Wednesday, announcing that the state would give five people $1 million each in return for having been vaccinated as part of a weekly lottery program.
The lottery, whose legality could raise questions, will be paid for by federal coronavirus relief funds, Mr. DeWine, a Republican, said during a statewide televised address.
The first of five weekly drawings will be held on May 26, according to Mr. DeWine, who said that Ohio Lottery would conduct them.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy!’ ” Mr. DeWine said on Twitter. “‘This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.’ 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.”
At the same that Mr. DeWine promoted the lottery, he announced on Wednesday that Ohio would lift all of its health orders that were enacted during the pandemic on June 2, except for those affecting nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. About 36 percent of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35 percent nationally — and nearly 20,000 state residents have died from the virus, according to public health data.
The reaction online to the giveaway was mixed on Wednesday, with some people saying that it beat the seemingly meager offerings of other states like free beer, gift cards and savings bonds. Others questioned whether the money might be better spent on broader relief from the pandemic and whether the lottery complied with federal regulations. Even some other Republicans bristled at the plan.
Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, who has sparred with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus, over reopening, sharply criticized the giveaway.
Tim Murphy, a writer at the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones, applauded the move.
“i’m sorry, this rules, and congrats to DeWine for coming up with this before Andrew Yang,” Mr. Murphy said on Twitter, referring to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate now running for New York City mayor, who has campaigned on a platform of universal basic income.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Mr. DeWine, said in an email on Wednesday night that the state had not sought the federal government’s guidance on the lottery program, nor was it required.
Requests for comment for the U.S. Treasury Department and the White House were not immediately answered on Wednesday.
Mr. DeWine said that the lottery would be open to residents 18 years and older who had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. He also announced that five teenagers would be eligible for a full scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program.
Several states and cities, which are struggling to fill vaccine appointments as the demand wanes, are turning to an array of not-so-subtle incentives to get shots into the arms of more Americans.
In one of the more widely publicized plans to boost vaccination rates, Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, a Republican, said last month that the state would give $100 savings bonds to 16- to 35-year-olds who get a Covid-19 vaccine. Mr. Justice later said that he was looking at other incentives amid difficulties trying to set up a savings-bond program, WVNews reported.
New Jersey is offering a “shot and a beer” for residents who get their first vaccine dose in May and visit participating breweries in the state. Detroit is giving out $50 prepaid cards to anyone who drives a resident to a vaccine site. And as an enticement for state employees to get the vaccine, Maryland is offering a $100 payment, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Monday.
The various incentives have been added as public health experts acknowledge that the United States is unlikely to achieve herd immunity, the point at which enough Americans have either been vaccinated or infected to mitigate the virus.
They are also a reminder of the hesitancy of people to get the vaccine and the challenge leaders face in convincing them that it is safe.