The state of Ohio said Tuesday that thousands of vaccinated Ohioans had signed up for a lottery offering free tuition or $1 million to 10 lucky people who have gotten a shot.
Sign-ups for the lottery opened on Tuesday. While the Ohio Department of Health declined to share the exact number of entrants, they said it numbered in the hundreds of thousands. At least 60,000 people had entered over the phone.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced the "Vax-a-Million" program last week. The lottery will award five separate prizes of $1 million to its winners, whose names will be announced every Wednesday starting May 26.
Vaccinated children aged 12 to 17 are also eligible to sign up for a separate lottery, granting five winners free tuition, room and board and books to any public college or university in Ohio.
The payout comes from Ohio's CARES Act pandemic recovery funds.
In announcing the program last week, DeWine argued that an incentive would do more to stoke falling vaccination rates than another public service announcement or information campaign.
"My personal position is I'm against incentives," said Dr. O'Dell Owens, a retired Cincinnati physician and member of the Ohio Minority Health Strike Force. "However, because we have not gotten herd immunity and we're dealing now with the core group who are the most resistant, then I think you have to pull out all the stops."
"If we're not going to protect ourselves with love, then we got to protect ourselves with a little bit of greed," Owens said.
Owens said he's for anything that creates busier clinics.
About 42% of all Ohioans — 5,017,279 people — had received at least one shot as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health. More were on their way.
Some knew about the lottery, including Norwood resident Grant Lonneman.
"I've always planned on getting the vaccine," he said. "I felt it's the important thing to do. But I figured, 'Hey, … if I get a free million out of it, I can take care of my family.' "I gotta take care of my nurse, Jo," he added, joking. "I think I'll give her a little cut."
Alauntae Jones said he wasn't aware of the lottery but added that he sees the appeal.
"I don't think anybody's really going to turn down an opportunity to win a million dollars," Jones, a Colerain resident, said. "I mean, there's people that play the lottery every day."
Ohio residents who have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can sign up for the lottery here.
This story was originally published by Larry Seward on Scripps station WCPO in Cincinnati.