Ohio giving $1 million to 5 vaccinated residents in lottery
Even as poorer countries are struggling with shortages of coronavirus vaccines, the United States is facing a starkly different problem. In America, plenty of vaccines are available - but health officials are finding it difficult to persuade millions of hesitant Americans to get their jabs. In a bid to motivate them, the state of Ohio has gone ahead and announced a million-dollar lottery program.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced the lottery program on Wednesday. He said $1 million cash payments will be given out to five lucky state residents who have received at least one vaccine shot, adding the program will be run in collaboration with the Ohio Lottery Commission. The weekly lucky draw will reportedly begin on May 26.
A similar lottery has been announced for teenagers in the state. Ohio residents aged between 12 and 17 have a chance to win full, four-year scholarships to public universities in the state, of course, if they have received the vaccine. The money to fund these lotteries will come from federal coronavirus relief, the Governor said.
The Governor said he expected the plausible criticism of the move. "I know that some may say, 'DeWine, you're crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money (sic)." "But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19," he said.
Vaccine hesitancy is proving to be a major hindrance in America's plans to achieve "herd immunity," a stage where enough number of people have either been infected or vaccinated to stop the virus' spread. Earlier, Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia had announced a $100 savings bond for those getting vaccinated. Meanwhile, New Jersey is offering free beers to residents for taking the shot.
Not all politicians have seconded the idea though. State House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, a Democrat, called the lottery a "grave misuse of money." Representative Jim Jordan, of the Republican Party, also mocked the move. "We've gone from 15 days to slow the spread to $1 million if you get the #COVID19 vaccine," Jordan wrote, adding, "Give me a break."
The hefty incentive serves yet another reminder as to how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the differing fates of the world's rich and poor countries. It comes at a time when several developing nations, including India, Nepal, and Malaysia, are struggling to contain a new wave of the coronavirus and trying to pick up the pace of vaccination.