Soon after COVID-19 vaccines were approved for use in the United States, states unveiled creative ways to encourage residents to get vaccinated.
The incentives started small — a free beer from a bar in New Jersey for those with proof of a completed vaccine regimen, a weeklong subway pass for New Yorkers and a free fishing license in Maine.
In mid-May, Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine raised the stakes when he unveiled a lottery system to entice people to get COVID-19 shots, offering a weekly $1 million prize and full-ride college scholarships in a creative bid to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
On Wednesday, a southwestern Ohio woman won the state’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize, while a Dayton-area teen was awarded the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the program.
Other states quickly followed Ohio’s lead, and a growing number are now offering cash lottery prizes for those who get vaccinated, with the winnings often scaling up into the millions.
Here are the states conducting vaccine lotteries:
Arkansas will begin giving lottery tickets and gift certificates for hunting and fishing licenses to people who get the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday.
Hutchinson said $20 scratch-off lottery tickets or $20 Game and Fish gift certificates will be offered to residents who get the first dose of the vaccine starting Tuesday. The incentives will be available starting June 1 at local health units or at special events around the state.
Arkansas has had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. About 39% of the state’s population has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hutchinson added that while Arkansas legally could not host a lottery for the same amount as Ohio, the state is spending $2 million to buy 50,000 scratch-off tickets and 50,000 gift certificates for the promotion.
California is giving away the country’s largest pot of vaccine prize money — $116.5 million — in an attempt to get millions more inoculated before the most populous state fully reopens next month.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced the prizes, which include $1.5 million each for 10 Californians, the largest single award offered in any state.
The goal is to motivate roughly 12 million people who are eligible but not yet vaccinated, though the more than 20 million Californians already partially or fully vaccinated also are in the running for the most valuable prizes.
“We’re putting aside more resources than any other state in America, and we’re making available the largest prizes of any state in America for those that seek to get vaccinated,” Newsom announced at an East Los Angeles high school where people were being vaccinated in the gymnasium.
The state will give $50 gift cards either for general use or for specific grocery stores to the next 2 million people who get shots, including those at the school where Newsom spoke.
Newsom said he hopes to give out all the gift cards by June 15, which would mean 2 million more people are vaccinated.
Money for the prizes will come from the state’s disaster response account, which will be reimbursed by federal coronavirus relief money, said Amelia Matier, a Newsom spokeswoman.
Delaware is joining the list of states offering cash and other incentives to entice both children and adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
State officials said Tuesday that Delawareans 12 and older who are vaccinated between now until June 29 will be entered to win $5,000 in cash and additional prizes in twice-weekly drawings conducted by the Delaware Lottery. The eligibility extends to all children between ages 12 and 17 who have already received the vaccine.
The drawings will be held on Mondays and Fridays from May 31 through June 30. Other prizes include a four-day vacation, a full scholarship to a Delaware public university, state parks passes, and tickets to the Firefly Music Festival and minor-league baseball games.
State officials also will reimburse small businesses including restaurants, bars and gyms that provide vaccine incentives to customers.
Maryland held its first of 40 consecutive $40,000 lottery drawings on Tuesday for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, one of several states using lottery prizes to encourage people to get inoculated.
The Maryland Lottery said the first winner lives in Baltimore County. Maryland law allows lottery winners to remain anonymous. There will be 39 more drawings for $40,000 in the $2 million total promotion, which ends with a $400,000 drawing prize on July 4.
The Maryland drawings are being done with a computer program that randomly selects a number from within the range of numbers provided to the lottery by Maryland’s health department. To be eligible, a participant must be a resident who is 18 and over who has received a vaccine shot in Maryland.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 68.3% of Maryland adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Larry Hogan is hoping to reach 70% by Memorial Day.
Anyone who got vaccinated at select state-run vaccination sites in New York this week received a lottery scratch ticket with prizes potentially worth millions, an effort from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to boost slowing vaccination rates.
The pilot program will offer prizes from $20 up to $5 million and run from Monday, May 24 to Friday, May 28 at 10 state-run sites. Only residents 18 and older are eligible, according to a press release.
And on Wednesday, Cuomo announced that vaccinated kids aged 12 to 17 will have a chance to win a full ride to public universities and colleges in New York.
The governor said the state will raffle off 50 scholarships, which would cover four years of tuition, room and board, books and supplies.
New York will hold weekly drawings on Wednesdays to randomly select 10 winners. Parents or guardians can enter children who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since May 12.
Officials are betting that the desire to win $1 million in a lottery will boost the percentage of Oregonians who are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
With only half of the people living in Oregon either fully or partially vaccinated, Oregon Lottery officials approved a plan Friday to hold a lottery. Those who have been vaccinated by June 27 will be eligible.
“It’s never been easier to get a vaccine, so don’t miss your shot to enter,” Gov. Kate Brown said.
She told reporters this is an effort to raise the percentage of adult Oregonians who get vaccinated to 70% in order to fully reopen the state.
The Oregon Health Authority says 50% of Oregonians are vaccinated, with 39% having completed the series and 11% in progress.
If Oregonians have received at least a first dose of Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, they are automatically entered to win through the state’s vaccine database. Brown, responding to a question at a Zoom news conference, said people who are in Oregon illegally and have been vaccinated are also eligible to win the prize.
West Virginia will step up its prizes for vaccines, enrolling all residents who have received a coronavirus shot into a lottery for the chance to win a college scholarship, a Ford F-150 pickup truck or cash rewards.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced the plan for the new incentives Thursday, but more details are expected to be finalized next week. The governor has aimed to turn around a vaccination drive that drastically slowed down after a strong early start.
"We're going to do exactly what Ohio has already done, but we're going to make a few West Virginians millionaires before this is over," Justice said. The program is expected to be paid through federal pandemic relief funds.
Gov. Justice also enlisted the aid of his bulldog, Babydog, for the state's vaccination campaign.
If you won't do it for your family, you've got to get vaccinated for Babydog," Justice said. "That's all there is to it."
"Now she wants you vaccinated so badly, and she's gonna abolutely be the one to lead us through on all these incentives, and without any questions she'll give you a high-five right now," Justice said, holding up the dog's paw.
"She wants you vaccinated, I want you vaccinated, and I want a bunch of you to win all this stuff and everything, and that'd be just great," Justice concluded.