(The Center Square) – Millions of dollars, college scholarships and other cash and prize incentives may not be enough to encourage more people around the country to get the COVID-19 vaccination, at least if numbers in Ohio are any indication.
The Associated Press reported the number of new Ohioans receiving at least the first dose of a vaccine fell by nearly half after the state announced its first $1 million and college scholarship winners. After Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement of the vaccine lottery in early May, the report said vaccination numbers increased by 43% over the previous week.
The report said the number of people receiving the vaccine from May 27 through June 2 dropped about 43%. March and April were the state’s highest months for the number of vaccines, according to The AP.
DeWine also issued an urgent plea to vaccine providers earlier this week as the potential grows for around 200,000 Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccines to expire June 23. If all those doses go unused, it comes at a cost of nearly $2 million for taxpayers.
DeWine said Thursday the state continues to see an uptake after the lottery announcement but pointed toward only 10 of the state’s 88 counties as having experienced an increase in vaccine doses administered.
“Ohio continues to move forward into a new phase of the pandemic. Vaccinations are working. That’s why cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down,” DeWine said in a news release. “However, the threat of COVID-19 remains, and we must remain vigilant. If you’re not vaccinated against COVID-19, please continue to wear a mask in public, and Ohioans who are able to get vaccinated should.”
Ohio announced its third set of lottery winners Wednesday, giving away another $1 million and a full four-year college scholarship to a state college or university. DeWine consistently praises the program as an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Several state lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, have attacked the program as a waste of taxpayers’ money with suggestions on how the money could be spent better.
Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, introduced the Taxpayer Protection Against Frivolous Vaccine Lottery Act shortly after DeWine announced plans to give away five $1 million prizes, along with full four-year college scholarships to anyone with at least one dose of the vaccine.
That legislation would end the program. It has yet to be assigned to a committee.
States around the country have followed Ohio’s lead and established similar lottery-type incentives to encourage more people to get the vaccine. Kentucky, West Virginia, New York, California, Maryland, Oregon, Colorado and Washington all have established a program that allows those vaccinated to be eligible to win prizes or cash.