Ohioans can opt in to the Ohio Department of Health’s vaccine lottery starting Tuesday, department head Stephanie McCloud announced Monday morning. Anyone who hopes to win the sweepstakes, which will award $1 million each to five vaccinated people in the state, must register online or over the phone to be eligible for a prize.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced the project on May 12 but provided few details; at the time, it was unclear whether all vaccine recipients in the state would be automatically entered or be required to enter themselves. The opt-in system sidesteps privacy concerns by requiring entrants to voluntarily give the state permission to investigate their vaccine status, McCloud said.
The Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery site had been set up with the help of the Ohio Lottery Commission by the time McCloud spoke on Monday, although it won’t open to registrants until 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Registrants can also sign up over the phone at 1-833-427-5634.
To register, you must be:
- An Ohio resident
- McCloud said the threshold for residency used in the contest will be the same one used for voter registration and acquiring an Ohio driver's license.
- At least 18 years old
- Vaccinated with at least one shot by the time of the week’s drawing
Hopefuls only need to register once, McCloud added. Winners’ names will be removed from the statewide pool after each drawing, but non-winners' names will go right back in.
“This is a bold initiative and we are so proud to bring it to Ohioans to hopefully turn the tide on COVID,” McCloud said.
The first drawing will take place May 24; after two days, during which the state will verify the winner’s vaccine status, the winner’s name will be announced May 26.
Although children who are able to be vaccinated do not qualify for the $1 million draw, they can register for a separate lottery offering a full-ride scholarship to any Ohio college or university.
DeWine said he hopes the incentives will encourage people to get the vaccine against the COVID-19 virus.
Locally, the Get Out the Vax campaign has fought to reach a goal of vaccinating 80% of people in the Tri-State region by July 4.
"We are over 50% towards our goal across the 15-county region, so over 50% of those eligible. in our 15-county community have had at least one dose," said Kate Schroder, special adviser for vaccine coordination for the movement.
She said in order to meet that 80% goal, the state's new push is welcome.
"The lottery creates a sense of urgency about why it's important to get it sooner rather than later...I think any incentive, it's really going to make a difference on getting more people to consider vaccination sooner is a worthwhile investment and something we need to look at."
As the state waits to see just how effective its strategy will be, the local Get Out the Vax campaign is still fighting for access and against hesitancy. More than 25 mobile units will hit Cincinnati area streets over the next week.
"Unfortunately, there's no one silver bullet. For different groups, different things work different," said Schroder.