For five Massachusetts adults and another five Bay State adolescents, the COVID-19 vaccine will prove to be an extra lucky shot.
The Baker administration announced Tuesday that it will partner with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and the Massachusetts Lottery to launch a "VaxMillions" giveaway in July, offering $1 million prizes to five adults 18 and older and $300,000 college scholarships to five adolescents between 12 and 17.
Why is the state doing this?
With the rate of new vaccinations slowing in recent weeks, officials said they unveiled the lottery as the latest step in an effort to reach those who still have not been immunized against the highly infectious virus.
"We're hopeful that this giveaway will give another reason and opportunity for people to choose to get vaccinated here in the commonwealth over the next couple of months," Gov. Charlie Baker said. “So if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines and thinking about getting vaccinated, but for whatever reason haven’t, here’s another reason for you to come forward, protect yourself, your friends, your coworkers, and your neighbors by getting vaccinated here in the Commonwealth."
How will VaxMillions work?
All Massachusetts residents who are fully vaccinated are eligible to enter the drawing, including those who have been immunized for months, so long as they received their doses in the Bay State. Winners will have their names publicly disclosed.
Registration for the contest will start on July 1 and remain open through Aug. 20. Residents will need to submit their personal information online or via a soon-to-launch call center, and state officials will conduct one drawing for each prize per week between July 26 and Aug. 27.
Anyone who signs up in the process consents to the Department of Public Health accessing their vaccination records to verify they are indeed fully vaccinated, and those selected as winners may also be asked to provide their Centers for Disease Control-issued record cards or other information.
But wait... who's footing the bill?
The Massachusetts State Lottery Commission will convene a special meeting at 11 a.m. on Thursday to vote on providing "technical and program support" for the VaxMillions giveaway.
Massachusetts will pay for the lottery program from the billions in federal aid it received in the American Rescue Plan Act, Baker said.
How do we know it will work?
Baker said Tuesday that other states that implemented similar lotteries experienced "a significant increase in vaccine sign-ups after they put this program in place."
Several other states such as Ohio and California have already offered lottery prizes to encourage vaccination in recent months. Baker said he spoke about the program with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who told him the effort "created a lot more visibility around getting vaccinated generally" for a sustained period of several weeks.
"They did start to see pick-up rates among some of the populations they'd had a really hard time reaching, especially young people, mostly men between the ages of about 20 and 40, which is a tough population for us as well as it was for them," he said.
Ohio also saw an uptick in interest from parents who used the offer of a college scholarship to urge their hesitant children to get vaccinated, he said.
So who's eligible?
Adults who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be eligible for the $1 million prizes. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 must have received both of their Pfizer doses -- the only vaccine currently authorized for anyone below the age of 18 -- to qualify.
Scholarship winners will receive a $300,000 grant via a 529 College Savings Plan that the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority manages, which Baker's office said "can be applied to cover tuition, room and board, and related expenses at any college, university, or technical or trade school or other post-secondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Education." Any winners with a qualifying disability could choose to receive an equivalent award to a special needs trust or federally qualified ABLE account.