COVID-19 vaccines are up in Ohio, but can Vax-a-Million be the reason?

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County held a free vaccine clinic at Wheat Penny on a Wayne. The mobile clinics are held in a retrofitted RTA bus. JIM NOELKER\STAFF
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Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County held a free vaccine clinic at Wheat Penny on a Wayne. The mobile clinics are held in a retrofitted RTA bus. JIM NOELKER\STAFF

A state lottery, eligibility for preteens, pop-up clinics could all be in play.

COVID-19 vaccinations have recently increased in Ohio after weeks of slump.

This follows the “Vax-a-million” lottery announcement, the expansion of eligibility to kids 12 to 15 years old, and the CDC saying the vaccinated generally don’t need to wear masks or social distance, as well as other new mobile outreach efforts.

More than 5 million Ohioans, which is 43% of the population, have at least one does. This includes more than 77% of adults 65 and older, who are particularly vulnerable to getting severely ill from the virus.

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have likewise plummeted. As of Friday, 781 COVID-19 patients were in the hospitals, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Two weeks ago there were 1,058.

ExploreOhio reports fewer than 800 hospitalized COVID patients for first time in 2 weeks

It’s not definitive what all is behind the Ohio vaccination increase, but local health workers said it could be multiple things.

Laurie Fox, public information officer with Greene County Public Health said, the county has had success with outreach that makes vaccines convenient (like a busy clinic at Mosaic at the Mall at Fairfield Commons), they’ve had more teenagers eligible and getting vaccinated, and the lottery has also been drawing people out.

“I think it’s all of the above,” Fox said.

On the state’s dashboard, about 43% of people in Greene County have received at least one dose, including more than 80% of 70 year olds. Fox said also that those state numbers don’t include Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s vaccine program, which is part of a separate federal system.

Erik Balster, commissioner of Preble County Public Health, said the department gave out 22 first doses Thursday, and last week saw 16 and the week prior 29. Total vaccine counts, including from pharmacies and private clinics, showed over the last few weeks that some days as many as 77 vaccines given out, slightly up from the weeks prior. In total, about 30% of people in Preble have received at least one dose.

Ohio will draw a $1 million and scholarship winner each Monday for five weeks. The first drawing will be Monday, with the winners announced on Wednesday at 7:29 p.m.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, since the Vax-a-Million drawings were announced on May 13, vaccination rates among Ohioans ages 16 and older increased by 28%.

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Prior to the announcement, Ohio was seeing a decrease in residents ages 16 and older getting vaccinated. Vaccination rates for that age dropped 25% the weekend of May 7-10 when compared to the weekend of April 30 to May 3.

However, the weekend of May 14-17, vaccination rates for the same age group increase by 28%, according to ODH.

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

The program has received attention from other governments, with New York and Maryland also establishing lotteries and more exploring the idea.

John McAlearney, health economist and assistant professor at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, said if more states have lotteries, it will make it easier to study what a lottery does to vaccination rates “but it’s looking pretty significant already so that’s pretty darn interesting.”

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“Economists have always said this is such an easy return on investment. It’s not that much money, but the public doesn’t like to hear that their tax dollars are being used for things like a lottery. Although it could be a really good way to have an effect and it’s a lot less expensive way than other ways that are more palatable,” McAlearney said.


To schedule a coronavirus vaccine appointment, go to https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov/. Ohioans can also call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634) to enter the drawings and to schedule a vaccine appointment.

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