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Did Vax-a-Million incentive accomplish its goal? DeWine calls it a ‘great success’

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 12:33 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - FOX19 NOW Investigates crunched the numbers and found that first shot vaccinations jumped a whopping 49% in Ohio the week after Vax-a-Million was introduced.

"Vax-a-Million has been a great success," Gov. Mike DeWine said.
"Vax-a-Million has been a great success," Gov. Mike DeWine said.(WXIX)

Ohio’s vaccine incentives have changed the lives of a lucky few.

Winners under the age of 18 received full-ride college scholarships. As for the winning adults, most recently Esperanza Diaz of West Chester, a nice $1 million was their reward.

Diaz is the third tri-state resident to either win a million dollars or a college scholarship.

Diaz was shocked when she got the call.

“Oh my god I think I’m the winner, and sure enough,” Diaz said.

Esperanza Diaz is the second prize winner to reside in Greater Cincinnati at the time of the...
Esperanza Diaz is the second prize winner to reside in Greater Cincinnati at the time of the drawing. Abbigail Bugenske, 22, of Silverton, won the first drawing.(WXIX)

Now that the Vax-a-Million contest has ended, did it spark a rise in the number of people getting vaccinated as Gov. Mike DeWine hoped?

“Vax-a-million has been a great success,” Gov. DeWine proclaimed.

It was DeWine who says he came up with the idea of a lottery drawing.

“For me not to use any tool that we could use to drive these vaccinations up and drive the virus down seems to me to be irresponsible,” Gov. DeWine said when he launched Vax-a-Million.

It was so unique it even caught the attention of President Joe Biden.

“Ohio has a new millionaire. I tell you what, who would have thunk it. Million bucks for getting the vaccine.” President Biden said.

DeWine’s idea caught the attention of other governors.

California doled out more than $115 million in prizes and had drawings that looked more like game shows.

Vaccinations jumped 22% in California during its incentive programs, according to the Associated Press.

However, those increases have slowed.

California doled out more than $115 million in prizes and had drawings that looked more like...
California doled out more than $115 million in prizes and had drawings that looked more like game shows(WXIX)

In New Mexico, the week-to-week increase after its lottery announcement spawned only 85 new registrations.

New Mexico registered only 85 new residents after announcing its vaccine lottery.
New Mexico registered only 85 new residents after announcing its vaccine lottery.(WXIX)

Vaccine incentive lotteries even went international.

In Thailand, CNN reported that one lucky vaccinated winner got a free cow.

With the end of the Vax-a-Million contest, there remain less than half of Ohioans vaccinated.

Less than 45% of Ohio is fully vaccinated, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Less than 45% of Ohio is fully vaccinated, according to the Ohio Department of Health.(WXIX)

Still, Gov. DeWine believes it had an impact.

The contest sure had an impact on Jennifer Daum from the Cleveland area. Her daughter Sydney was last week’s scholarship winner.

“We were gonna wait till later in the summer to have her fully vaccinated by the time school started, but when you announced the Vax-a-Million lottery, we thought hey this is a good time to maybe do it now, and we did, and we can’t believe it paid off,” Daum said.

Could more incentives be on the way?

Gov. DeWine says he has been involved in talks about giving out smaller prizes, but more of them.

Kentucky’s vaccine lottery is called “Shot at a Million.”

The lottery will give out $1 million to three adults and 15 scholarships to those 12 to 17 years old.

Gov. Andy Beshear will announce the first winners on July 2.

Indiana has not announced any incentive plan the likes of Ohio and Kentucky.

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