The US state of Ohio will award cash prizes of $1m (£710,000) to five recipients of Covid-19 vaccines as part of a lottery launched to boost flagging up-take of jabs.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said only adult residents who had had a vaccine would be eligible for the draw. The first of five weekly drawings will be announced on 26 May, Mr DeWine said. He said the lottery would be paid for by coronavirus relief funds from the federal government. A world leader in Covid-19 vaccinations, the US has given 58.7% of its adult population jabs against the disease.
A successful vaccination programme was crucial to curbing the pandemic in the US, which has recorded more than 32 million infections in total – the highest figure in the world. President Joe Biden has set his administration the goal of vaccinating 70% of adults by 4 July – American Independence Day.
However, for weeks now, the number of vaccines administered has been in decline nationwide. Health officials have attributed this to hesitancy among some Americans. To convince the undecided, eye-catching giveaways – including beer, donuts, tickets to sporting events and cash prizes – are being offered in different parts of the country.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy!’,” Mr DeWine wrote in a tweet, announcing the Ohio lottery. “‘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.”
The state is also offering a lottery for vaccinated residents under the age of 18. Instead of $1m, though, they could win a full four-year scholarship to one of Ohio’s state universities. The pool of names entered into the lottery will be drawn from the state’s voter registration database, Mr DeWine said.
Last week, Mr Biden said his administration was working to win over “doubters” about vaccines. Part of that plan involves vaccinating children as young as 12.
On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended approval of the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine to adolescents ages 12 to 15.
FDA Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock said the move was aimed at “bringing us close to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic”.