Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery: Your questions answered

Ohioans react to DeWine’s planned lottery incentive for vaccinations.

Need another reason to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Ohio will soon raffle off $1 million to five adult recipients of the coronavirus vaccine and full college scholarships to five eligible adolescent vaccine recipients.

This announcement by Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday comes as vaccination rates have plateaued in recent weeks and governments and community leaders are getting creative with incentives to convince stragglers to get the shot.

“Why not? I think it’s a clever way to get people in the door,” said Bradley Stolfa from Montgomery County.

Some details are still being ironed out but here is what we know about how this contest will work.

Who is eligible for the lottery?

Any Ohio resident 18 years of age or older on the day of the drawing who has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine at any point before the day of the drawing is eligible for the $1 million lottery.

Any Ohio resident 17 years or younger who has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine at any point before the day of the drawing is eligible for the college scholarship lottery.

When are the drawings?

Starting on May 26, winners will be announced every Wednesday at 7:29 p.m. Ohio lottery drawings are broadcast statewide on local television news channels, including WHIO CBS on channel 7 in Dayton.

What could I win?

Five adults will win a $1 million prize (taxes will apply). Five adolescents age 12 to 17 will win a four-year full scholarship — tuition, room, board and books included — to any of Ohio’s state colleges and universities.

How do I make sure my name is entered?

The pool for the “Ohio Vax-a-Million” drawing will come from the Ohio Secretary of State’s publicly available voter registration database. Also, a webpage will be made available for people to sign up who are not registered to vote.

On May 18, an electronic portal will open for those younger than 18 to enter.

What are the odds of winning?

As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 5 million Ohioans, about 42% of the state population, has received at least one shot, according to the Ohio Department of Health website. So adult vaccine recipients will have about a one in a million chance unless vaccination rates significantly increase.

For context, odds of winning a $1 million Powerball prize are about one in 11,688,053.52.

About 175,000 Ohioans age 19 and younger have received a COVID vaccine. The state website does not release more specific age data.

It’s too early to calculate odds for winning the scholarship. Before Thursday, only Ohioans 16 and older could receive a coronavirus vaccine. After a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel this week recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15, Ohio began offering the shot to them on Thursday.

Where are the funds coming from?

The Ohio Department of Health is sponsoring the give-away, which will be conducted by the Ohio Lottery and paid for with federal COVID relief funds. For context, the most recent COVID relief bill passed by congress gave Ohio $5.6 billion to help with pandemic-related expenses.

As soon as the program was announced, it drew sharp criticism from some Democrats as well as Republicans. Opponents say it is a waste of government funds.

“Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis. Ohioans deserve better than this,” Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes said in a written statement. Sykes has a master’s degree in public health.

In an online poll by the Dayton Daily News to which over 690 Miami Valley residents responded on Thursday, only 26% of people said the lottery is a good use of federal money.

Zoë McLaren, health economist and associate professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said the vaccine lottery is a policy gamble — we don’t know for sure what the vaccine barriers are or whether the lottery incentive will push past that.

But she thinks it’s a smart gamble.

“Anything that we can do to boost vaccination rates is fantastic, and the value of each additional person vaccinated is much higher than one might think,” McLaren said.

Vaccines prevent almost 100% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, and “to put them in purely economic terms, those are costly to the state.” If case rates are low, it encourages more travel and tourism, and also helps keep businesses and schools open, she said.

“So when you think big picture about all the benefits of having low COVID-19 rates in Ohio, the $5 million spent on this lottery starts to make a lot more sense in that the rewards from keeping the virus from circulating add up day to day to day and add up over a long period of time,” McLaren said.

Crystal Clark from Clark County said, “If it gets everyone vaccinated its a good idea.”

Will this gimmick convince anybody to get vaccinated?

Of the Dayton Daily News poll respondents, about 28% said the $1 million lottery will make the adults in their lives more motivated to get vaccinated and 38% said the college scholarship lottery will make it more likely that children in their lives will get vaccinated.

Brenda Ronnebaum from Greene County said, “People in my life have already gotten the vaccine or are, sadly, staunchly opposed to it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.