Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday defended his decision to offer residents the chance to win their share of $5 million in winnings for getting at least one COVID-19 shot, saying that he had decided that the importance of encouraging people to get their vaccinations outweighs the money for the drawing.
"I've been thinking every day what can we do to increase the number of people who are getting the vaccine," the Republican governor told "CBS This Morning." "I just decided that this might be something that would kind of persuade some people."
Beginning on May 26, the state will start drawing one vaccine recipient a week, and through a period of 5 weeks, the winners will each snag $1 million. To qualify, people must live in Ohio, be 18 years old or older, and have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine before the drawings start.
The state's lottery system will be conducting the raffle and will use the Ohio Secretary of State's public voter registration database to draw candidates, reports CNBC. People can also sign up online to participate if they aren't registered voters.
There will be a separate lottery planned for teens ages 12-17 who get their shots. The state plans to award one, full four-year scholarship to the state college of the teen's choice, for each of the five weeks during the drawings. The scholarships will include tuition, room and board, and books, according to DeWine's announcement.
"My wife and I have been traveling around the state and talking to people who are getting vaccinated, and one of the things that we see is that there's some people who just were holding back and then their relative talked them into it, their spouse talked them into it, or it became available because they didn't have to set up an appointment," the governor said.
But there are many people who say they will never get their shots, even though 42% of Ohioans have been fully vaccinated.
"We've got the, what I call the persuadables in the middle, and it's not just getting them to do it," said DeWine. "But getting people to be vaccinated now as opposed to a month or two months from now will certainly slow this virus down and ultimately, this is going to save lives."
There have been some studies that show that incentives don't work, the governor acknowledged, but "we just thought that it was worth it to try to do it."
Ohio's COVID numbers are coming down, but the virus is "still very much out there," DeWine said.
"At the very end, as you know, it's out there, and the variant, it's out there and much more contagious than it's ever been," he said. "We've got two groups of people, 42% of the people who are vaccinated and are free; they can go do what they want to do."
But the other group, which is not vaccinated, faces a danger that is "even more great in some respects than it has been in the past because this variant is more contagious," said DeWine.
The money for the drawings is coming from federal pandemic relief dollars, and people from both sides of the aisle are saying the incentives are not the best use of the money at this time, but DeWine disagreed.
"This is money that we got from the federal government to fight the virus," said DeWine. "The only game in town really at this point is the vaccine, and everybody that we can get vaccinated, it fights the virus better."
He added that he knew he'd be criticized by people who call the drawings a "waste," but "what I think is a waste is when we have a vaccine that will save a life and someone still gets the COVID and dies because they have not been vaccinated. That's what the waste is. That is a tragic, tragic waste."
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