US states use lottery to reverse Covid vaccination slump

The US states of Maryland and New York have kicked off their own versions of Covid-19 vaccination lottery to reverse the slumping trend of inoculation, while the pioneer state Ohio has achieved a 53 per cent increase of shots since its program started last week.

Coronavirus vaccinations among the people aged 16 years and older in Ohio had been down 25 per cent in the period of May 7 to 10, compared to the previous weekend, Xinhua news agency reported.

After Governor Mike DeWine announced the lottery on May 12, vaccination rates increased 53 per cent in the period of May 13 to 18, the state Department of Health was quoted by CBS as saying on Thursday.

Residents who have been vaccinated will be eligible for five lottery drawings of $1 million.

“This dramatic increase in vaccinations indicates that the Vax-a-Million drawing has been impactful in creating momentum for vaccinations throughout Ohio,” Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said in a statement.

“We are grateful that the drawings are helping spur Ohioans to take this important measure to protect their health, their loved ones, and their community.”

While announcing the program earlier this month, DeWine had tweeted: “I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! 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.”

New Yorkers can get a free lottery ticket if they get vaccinated next week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday, adding that the pace of vaccinations has slowed.

New York has recorded an average of 123,806 daily shots in arms over the past 14 days, down 43 per cent from 216,040 as of April 12.

“If you were undecided or dubious about getting a vaccine, now you have an added bonus. Don’t miss this chance,” Cuomo said.

As part of the “Vax and Scratch” pilot program, if someone gets vaccinated at one of the state’s 10 mass vaccination sites between May 24 and 28, they’ll receive a scratch-off ticket for the $5 million Mega Multiplier Lottery.

A ticket normally costs $20 and the top prize is $5 million.

With vaccine demand dropping, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is launching a $2 million lottery that will hand out dozens of $40,000 cash prizes to state residents who have received Covid jabs, along with a $400,000 grand prize.

Hogan said that daily drawings for a $40,000 prize will be held from May 25 to July 3.

On July 4, the $400,000 grand prize will be awarded via a random drawing.

All state residents 18 and older who received coronavirus vaccinations in Maryland will be eligible, regardless of when the shots were administered. No registration or entry is necessary.

“That’s 40 drawings over 40 days for the chance to win 40,000 dollars each day,” Hogan said.

“Entry is very simple… Get your shot for a shot to win.”

Other states and cities have been also eager to offer, with price tags much more affordable.

The first incentives were relatively modest: doughnuts, hunting licenses, baseball tickets, cheeseburgers, beer and whiskey. Until the million-dollar prize emerged, the scenario began to look really dramatic.

On Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the state would offer free state park passes, a free glass of wine, as well as a chance to win dinner with the governor and First Lady Tammy Murphy.

In Long Beach, California, the city’s mayor is promoting free aquarium tickets for those who get vaccinated.

In New York City, the immunized can grab free fries at Shake Shack.

One state that is not offering cash or any other goody, is Pennsylvania, but it developed its own incentive: if 70 per cent of eligible people got their shots, the state would lift its mask mandate for everyone.

The US federal government has teamed up with some of the country’s largest corporations to offer incentives, such as 10 per cent off a grocery bill at Safeway or Albertsons.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden set a goal of getting 70 per cent of the country’s adult population to receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by July 4.

Federal data has shown that 48 per cent of the US population have received one shot or more of a vaccine and 38 per cent are fully vaccinated.

However, the average daily pace of coronavirus vaccinations is down almost 50 per cent from its April peak, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past week, about 1.8 million vaccine doses have been administered each day, a 46 per cent drop from the peak rate of nearly 3.4 million per day in mid-April.

Public health officials have said that this stage of the vaccination campaign is more challenging since the most eager recipients have already gotten their shots.