COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Tuesday, one day ahead of Ohio’s first “Vax-a-Million” drawing, White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt praised Gov. Mike DeWine for the program. 

What You Need To Know

  • Ohio will hold the first of five $1 million lotteries for those who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine

  • The money used for the drawings is coming from federal stimulus funds

  • The White House has given its blessing for the proposal and has issued guidance to other states on how to incentivize COVID-19 vaccines

  • Despite claims the lottery has increased vaccinations, some lawmakers are calling the drawing a waste

​“Mike DeWine has unlocked a secret,” Slavitt  said. “People care about COVID, but they also care about other things.”

Those other things include cash incentives, Slavitt said. Wednesday is the first of five $1 million drawings for Ohio adults who have gotten a COVID-19 shot. 

DeWine announced the lottery two weeks ago as the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in the state was sharply declining. DeWine has credited the drawing for an uptick in vaccinations in recent weeks. 

"I can't tell you how happy I am about it and it's been a marked change, a noticeable change," said DeWine.​

The funds to pay for the drawing are coming from the economic stimulus plan signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year. Slavitt hopes other states use federal funds to pay for COVID-19 vaccine incentives. 

“The program is working,” Slavitt said. “Since then, we have seen more states, including Maryland, New York and Oregon announce similar programs. We are nothing but responsive to good ideas.” 

Slavitt said that the Treasury Department has issued guidance on how states can use federal stimulus dollars to fund their own incentive programs. 

“We encourage states to use their creativity to draw attention to vaccines and get their state and the country back to normal as quickly as possible,” Slavitt said. “This includes lottery programs for vaccinated individuals, cash or in-kind transfers or other monetary incentives for individuals who get vaccinated.

The program, however, has drawn criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

"Using taxpayer dollars to incentivize something of this nature is an abuse of public resources, regardless of whether it is federal money or not," Ohio House Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, said in a statement.​

“As elected leaders, we’re obligated to take seriously our duty to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron. “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis. Ohioans deserve better than this”