Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday defended his decision to gamble on using $5 million in lottery drawings and full-ride scholarships to encourage reluctant people in his state to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines, insisting the bet has paid off because so many more people now have their shots.
"Not only is there going to be a millionaire tonight, not only is there going to be a student who is going to be guaranteed four years of room and board, tuition, everything else at one of our great state universities, but even more important is the number of Ohioans who have gotten vaccinated," the GOP governor said on CNN's "New Day."
The decision for a lottery was made because the number of people getting their shots was declining, but that has stopped after the announcement, DeWine said.
"Those numbers have gone up by a 45% increase in the number of people getting vaccinated," said the governor.
"The biggest group where we're seeing the biggest jump? Guess what: 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. (There was a) 94% increase in that group. You can just hear mom and dad and hear the students thinking, I might get a four-year scholarship. And the odds for that are pretty good. Over 100,000 people have signed up, kids have signed up. So there are a lot better odds than certainly most lotteries."
The state is holding five drawings, beginning on Wednesday. The drawings will award $1 million each to five adults, and the scholarships to five people under the age of 18.
The first names were already pulled this morning, said the governor.
"I don't actually know the names yet," DeWine said about the winners, noting the announcement will be made just before 7:30 p.m.
Critics have from both sides of the aisle slammed the governor's plans as a waste of taxpayer money, but DeWine said, "we need to get Ohio moving forward."
"The way we do it is through vaccines," the governor said. "This is our ticket out of the pandemic. My wife Fran and I, as we traveled around the state, we've been to over 40 vaccination sites over the last month or so. There are just some people who just, you know, didn't feel strongly about it and were kind of postponing whether they got it or when they got it."
DeWine said he hopes that the state will continue not only to get more people convinced to get a shot but to move up their schedules rather than waiting for months before making a decision.
"I know people have criticized it," the governor said. "They say this is a big waste. The true waste at this point in the pandemic is for someone to die from COVID when that's not necessary when we have the vaccine that could save their life. That is what the true waste is."
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