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Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery opens: 'We got to protect ourselves with a little bit of greed'

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Posted at 6:31 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 07:18:45-04

Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans sign up Tuesday for the state’s Vax-a-Million sweepstakes, a first-of-its-kind lottery that only people vaccinated against COVID-19 can enter.

Interested? You can enter your own name at ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling 1-833-427-5634.

Vax-a-Million will award five separate prizes of $1 million to its winners, whose names will be announced every Wednesday starting May 26. The payout comes from Ohio’s CARES Act pandemic recovery funds.

Gov. Mike DeWine, in announcing the program, argued that an incentive would do more to stoke falling vaccination rates than another public service announcement or information campaign.

“My personal position is I’m against incentives,” said Dr. O’Dell Owens, a retired Cincinnati physician and member of the Ohio Minority Health Strike Force. “However, because we have not gotten herd immunity and we’re dealing now with the core group who are the most resistant, then I think you have to pull out all the stops.

“If we’re not going to protect ourselves with love, then we got to protect ourselves with a little bit of greed.”

Owens said he’s for anything that creates busier clinics.

About 42% of all Ohioans — 5,017,279 people — had received at least one shot by Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health. More were on their way.

Some knew about the lottery, including Norwood resident Grant Lonneman.

“I’ve always planned on getting the vaccine,” he said. “I felt it’s the important thing to do. But I figured, ‘Hey, … if I get a free million out of it, I can take care of my family.’

“I gotta take care of my nurse, Jo,” he added, joking. “I think I’ll give her a little cut.”

Alauntae Jones didn’t but said he sees the appeal.

“I don't think anybody's really going to turn down an opportunity to win a million dollars,” Jones, a Colerain resident, said. “I mean, there’s people that play the lottery every day."

The Ohio Department of Health declined to share the exact number of entrants on Tuesday afternoon but said they numbered in the hundreds of thousands. At least 60,000 had entered over the phone.

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Senior Reporter Larry Seward is focusing his reporting on the COVID-19 vaccine to bring you answers and information. Contact Larry at 513-667-4804 or larry.seward@wcpo.com.