What does cash, doughnuts, beer, and guns all have in common in 2021? Depending on where you live, they could be yours if you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In an effort to get more shots in arms, several states have created incentive programs to encourage citizens to get vaccinated.
The lottery that has gained the most attention in recent weeks is the "Vax-amillion" program in Ohio, which gives out $1 million per week to a lucky person just for proving they’ve received the potentially life-saving serum.
But it doesn’t stop there in the Buckeye State, as those not old enough to gamble can also win big. Ohioans ages 12 to 17 who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can enter to win one of five four-year, fullride scholarships, including room and board, tuition, and books, to any Ohio state college or university.
Are these tactics a tad desperate? Absolutely. But are they effective? Thus far, the answer appears to be "yes."
Since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the lottery on May 12, the Ohio Department of Health has reported a weekly average increase of 77%, or an average of 68,667 more shots, per week.
In addition, among those aged 16 and older, a 28% increase, or an average of 25,390 more shots per week, has occurred over the last two weeks.
Last week, the second $1 million winner in Ohio, a delivery man working for Amazon in Toledo, said he had gotten vaccinated because of the drawing.
Some states like Maryland are giving out cash, but in smaller increments, while others, such as West Virginia, have awarded additional prizes like trucks and hunting rifles.
With vaccination numbers slowing, and the state still far below the national average of 52% fully vaccinated, Indiana should roll the dice and create its own program now.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb dismissed the thought of a vaccine lottery in mid-May, but he can still reverse course on that opinion.
Even if it amounts to giving out tenderloins and tickets to sporting events, it’s worth a try to get the state closer to herd immunity.
Some organizations are already testing the giveaway waters.
At Indiana University, the school is offering more than $70,000 in prizes, including a student winning one year of in-state tuition credit for their campus and an employee winner choosing between a pair of season tickets for either the Indianapolis Colts or Indiana Repertory Theatre.
Coming into this week, Indiana was still among the least vaccinated states in the country at 37% fully vaccinated. In Bartholomew County, around 43% of the county’s population was fully vaccinated on Monday.
If it takes some bribing to get vaccination numbers up, so be it.
It shouldn’t take a prize to convince someone to get vaccinated, but that’s where we are as a state and country.