While Ohioans began registering Tuesday morning for a chance to win millions by getting the COVID-19 vaccine, state lawmakers continued to criticize the idea, with one saying Gov. Mike DeWine should end it immediately.
Those vaccinated started registering on a website to be one of five winners of a $1 million or five full, four-year college scholarship in what the Ohio Department of Health is calling an innovative public outreach campaign.
DeWine’s “Vax-a-Million” lottery incentives use unspent federal COVID-19 relief money to fund the prizes, and they come at a time when the state plans to end nearly all pandemic health restrictions June 2.
“For a year, Ohioans have made sacrifices to save lives and keep our state moving forward. What you have done has really worked! And now, we have a powerful weapon that is almost 100 percent effective in beating the virus,” DeWine said in his remarks. “Simply put, the vaccine is stronger and better than medical experts ever imagined. And now, everyone 12 and over can use it to protect themselves – to put an invisible shield of protection around themselves. Everyone can now control their own health – their own destiny.”
Eligibility for the lotteries is for those who have yet to receive a dose of the vaccine but do so during the period of time they are in place and those who have completed the vaccine protocols. The Ohio Department of Health verifies the vaccine information of winners.
A winner must be a permanent resident of Ohio, be at least 12 years old and have received at least one dose of a vaccine before the drawing date. A person in jail or prison for a felony conviction is ineligible, along with employees of the lottery commission, department of health and the governor’s office or be related to those employees.
While DeWine and health department officials see the lotteries as a creative way to encourage more people to get vaccinated, state lawmakers have been critical of the use of taxpayer money.
Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, praised DeWine’s decision to end the majority of the pandemic restrictions, but he also said the vaccine lottery unfairly picks winners and losers.
“As happy as I am to hear the governor’s announcement to lift the restrictions and anticipate him signing House Bill 215, The Business Fairness Act, into law as soon as it is presented to him to protect Ohio’s businesses, I was nothing short of stunned to learn of the vaccine lottery,” Wilkin said. “As a member of the Controlling Board, to use these federal funds in this manner was neither outlined nor explained in any funding request and, without a doubt, was not expected. While the restrictions implemented last summer unfairly hurt Ohio’s small community businesses by picking winners and losers, this lottery is doing the exact same thing. The Governor should reconsider this decision and immediately rescind the program.”
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