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DeWine defends $1 million lottery giveaway meant to entice more COVID vaccine participation

As of Thursday, more than 42% of eligible Ohioans had started their vaccines.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine drew national attention – and bipartisan criticism – for the idea he unveiled Wednesday – to offer up five chances for Ohioans to win $ 1 million as part of a newly created lottery meant to entice more people to get their COVID vaccines.

As of Thursday, more than 42% of eligible Ohioans had started their vaccines.

Under the governor’s proposed lottery, Ohioans ages 18 and up who have gotten at least one dose of their vaccine could be eligible to win one million dollars. The lottery, which will be run by the Ohio lottery, will begin May 26 and include drawings over the next five Wednesdays.

DeWine says the source of the funding will be federal coronavirus relief funds. Part of his plan also involves offering college scholarships to those under 18 as teens ages 12 to 17 became eligible this week to get the Pfizer vaccine.

The lottery idea has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in the Ohio Statehouse – some who have called it everything from AN abuse of resources to a waste.

During his Thursday afternoon news conference, DeWine defended his plan.

“I did not go into this thinking everybody was going to say this is a wonderful idea…this is one tool we have not used. We know how powerful the vaccines are,” DeWine said.

DeWine was also asked by a reporter to weigh in on the legality of the use of these funds. DeWine explained that there is wide latitude available for the use of the funds in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

10 Investigates checked the federal register to read the guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department sent to states regarding the use of coronavirus relief funds. There is no language in the guidance issued to states that prohibits the use of these funds for vaccines or a lottery. 10 Investigates also reached out to the U.S. Treasury on Thursday but did not hear back.

Some facts about the lottery:

  • Beginning May 26th, 5 drawings will take place each Wednesday
  • Each drawing worth $1 million
  • Ohio residents 18 years and older are eligible, must have at least one COVID vaccine
  • Ohioans must opt-in by visiting ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling the Ohio Department of Health Call Center at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634)
  • Ohio Lottery will oversee drawings
  • Winnings will likely be taxable

10 Investigates also found more than half a dozen states have offered various vaccine incentives – though none appear to offer winnings as large as Ohio.

There may be some science behind incentives for vaccines. Two recent surveys – one by Kaiser Family Foundation and another by UCLA and Harvard researchers – each found that more than a third of unvaccinated adults said they would be more willing to get a shot if they were paid cash.

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