To bolster slumping demand for the vaccine, the state will use federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for a weekly lottery beginning May 26.
To the many propositions that governments have used to try to bolster slumping demand for the coronavirus vaccine, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio raised the ante considerably on Wednesday, announcing that the state would give five people US$1 million ($1.4 million) each in return for having been vaccinated as part of a weekly lottery programme.
The lottery, whose legality could raise questions, will be paid for by federal coronavirus relief funds, DeWine, a Republican, said during a statewide televised address.
The first of five weekly drawings will be held on May 26, according to DeWine, who said that Ohio Lottery would conduct them.
"I know that some may say, 'DeWine, you're crazy!,'" DeWine said on Twitter. "'This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.' 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."
The reaction online to the giveaway was mixed on Wednesday, with some people saying that it beat the seemingly meagre offerings of other states like free beer, gift cards and savings bonds. Others questioned whether the money might be better spent on broader relief from the pandemic and whether the lottery complied with federal regulations.
It was not immediately clear if officials in Ohio had vetted the lottery with the federal government.
Requests for comment for the US Treasury Department and the White House were not immediately answered Wednesday.
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DeWine said that the lottery would be open to residents 18 years and older who have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. He also announced that five teenagers would be eligible for a full scholarship to one of the state's public universities under a similar lottery programme.
Several states and cities, which are struggling to fill vaccine appointments as the demand wanes, are turning to an array of not-so-subtle incentives to get shots into the arms of more Americans.
In one of the more widely publicised plans to boost vaccination rates, Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia, a Republican, said last month that the state would give US$100 ($140) savings bonds to 16- to 35-year-olds who get a Covid-19 vaccine. Justice later said that he was looking at other incentives amid difficulties trying to set up a savings-bond program, WVNews reported.
New Jersey is offering a "shot and a beer" for residents who get their first vaccine dose in May and visit participating breweries in the state. Detroit is giving out US$50 ($70) prepaid cards to anyone who drives a resident to a vaccine site. And as an enticement for state employees to get the vaccine, Maryland is offering a US$100 payment, Governor Larry Hogan announced Monday.
The various incentives have been added as public health experts acknowledge that the United States is unlikely to achieve herd immunity, the point at which enough Americans have either been vaccinated or infected to mitigate the virus.
They are also a reminder of the hesitancy of people to get the vaccine and the challenge leaders face in convincing them that it is safe.
Written by: Neil Vigdor
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