Will lotteries increase Ohio Valley’s lagging COVID vaccination rates?

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When the COVID-19 vaccine first became available, some states struggled to meet demand, including West Virginia. States administered almost all doses in weekly shipments. But soon after eligibility was extended to everyone over 16, supplies began to pile up as vaccination rates declined.

Ohio Valley governors pleaded with residents for vaccinations at weekly press conferences as hundreds of thousands of the appointments were not kept. Then came the allure of free beer, ice cream, and free gift cards.

same Anheuser-Busch jumped on the bandwagon with promises of free beer for everyone 21 and over – if the United States met President Biden’s 70% vaccination target by July 4. But it doesn’t look like a beer tour is on the way. As of June 17, 52.7% of the American population had received a dose.

But over the past month, states have upped the stakes on their COVID-19 vaccine incentive stakes and are prepared to pay. Kentucky’s “Shot At A Million”, Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million”, and West Virginia’s “Do It For Babydog” (we’ll explain that in a moment) are all contests with million prizes. dollars and full scholarships open to anyone who has received at least one injection.

Abbey Bugenske is one of the Ohio Vax-A-Million winners.

While millions of people have signed up for these states’ vaccine lotteries, millions more who are eligible have not. Less than half of the populations of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have received at least one injection, and health officials are anxiously monitoring the arrival of more infectious coronavirus variants. As states push this latest effort with millions to win, that may not be enough to convince 70% of the population to get vaccinated.

Big incentives

It started with Ohio “Vax-a-million”- the first state to offer people who start a chance to win $ 1 million. There’s even a big prize for kids ages 12 to 17 – a full scholarship that pays for tuition, books, room, and board at any state university or college.

After the contest was announced by Ohio on May 12, the Ohio Department of Health said immunization data showed a 106% increase in the first week after the announcement and a 57% increase in the second week after the announcement in people of all ages.

“With Ohio ‘Vax-a-Million’ Draw, I Urge Ohio Residents Who Have Not Yet Received COVID-19 Vaccine To Get Vaccinated And Continue Ohio Progress beyond this pandemic, ”Governor Mike DeWine said in a press release. Over 3.4 million people entered the competition, but 5.3 million are eligible to enter.

Colleen, Joseph and Rich Costello won a scholarship in the Ohio Vax-A-Million competition.

Kentucky is offering three million dollar prizes and 15 scholarships. Two weeks after the announcement, Governor Andy Beshear said more than 414,000 Kentuckians had registered. It is difficult to say how many of them were newly motivated to be vaccinated, as this number is not separated by new and existing vaccinations.

However, vaccination figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 71,331 Kentuckians received at least one dose of the vaccine from June 5 to 17, compared to 83,686 during the 13-day period through June 4 when the State announced awards and scholarships.

West Virginia uses a chubby face to please those who haven’t been lucky yet.

WV Governor Jim Justice Bulldog Babydog.

“You might have turned down yourself, you might have turned down your family, but how can you turn down that face? I mean that face here, ”West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said, holding his bulldog at a press conference in June. “It’s little Babydog. Say please, please – she’s just waving to you – please go get the shot.

The one-year-old bulldog is the star of West Virginia “Do it for Babydog” vaccination campaign. Mountain State will award seven million dollar prizes, custom shotguns, shotguns and trucks, state park getaways, and lifetime hunting and fishing licenses from June 17 to June 2. August. People aged 12 to 25 can enter to win a full four-year round. Scholarships. A grand prize of $ 1.588 million and a second prize of $ 588,000 will also be awarded.

Indifferent to incentives

In Fayette County, Kentucky, 61% of the population has received at least one injection. It is one of the top five counties with the highest vaccination rates in the Commonwealth. Even with the chance to win a college scholarship, some parents say it didn’t influence their decision to vaccinate their family.

Nicholas Welker works in the healthcare industry and got vaccinated as soon as he could. He did the same when vaccinations were opened to children over 12 and enrolled his 13-year-old.

Welker was not aware of the incentives. He thinks it’s a good idea, but he’s not sure they’ll make a difference at this point.

“You have your own personal reasons at this point for not getting it. And I don’t know if the incentives are going to influence you more, ”Welker said.

Tanya Johnson also lives in Fayette County and has two daughters aged 13 and 16. She said getting the shot was their choice.

“I don’t think getting a scholarship outweighs what could potentially happen if something goes wrong with vaccinations,” Johnson said. “So these are well educated girls, they will make a good decision if they have to.”

Johnson says she’s not a doctor and doesn’t think anything will happen. the CDC says vaccines are safe.

At Paducah Middle School in McCracken County, western Kentucky, Cora Sims’ daughter, Briana, asked for the shot. Sims said she was unaware of the Kentucky scholarship. About 27% of the population of McCracken County has received at least one injection.

“Our decision was mostly based on just trying to get back to a bit of normalcy,” Sims said. “Because nobody wants to stay inside anymore, especially when you don’t have to. “

Simone Greer also took her daughter to Paducah Middle for the shot and heard about Kentucky’s new incentives.

“I haven’t got mine yet, but I’m thinking about getting it probably next month, so it’s like ‘oh my kid can get a scholarship, I might get a million.’ So that may encourage me to move forward, ”said Greer.

Dustin Wilcox of partner station WKMS contributed to the reporting of this story.

The Ohio Valley ReSource is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and our partner stations.

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