With more states reopening and Americans eager to return to pre-pandemic life, federal officials have pledged to fund incentive programs like Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery, which is offering vaccinated adults the chance to win $1 million, in hopes of pushing the United States closer to herd immunity.
The Department of the Treasury released additional guidance Tuesday on how states can use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan for programs that encourage people to get vaccinated, Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, said. This includes lotteries, cash or in-kind transfers and other financial incentives for people to get vaccinated.
“Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has unlocked a secret,” Slavitt said during a news briefing. “People do care about getting vaccinated, but it turns out they also have other things they care about. Some of those things might encourage people to think about what might otherwise be a lower priority.”
Since Ohio started the Vax-a-Million lottery earlier this month, the number of residents ages 16 or older who have received at least one dose of the vaccination jumped by 33 percent, The Associated Press reported. The surge in vaccination rates, 55 percent, is even higher for those between the ages of 20 and 49, Slavitt said.
Already, more than 2.7 million people have registered for the drawing and 104,386 Ohioans between the ages of 12 to 17 have entered a college scholarship drawing, Ohio public health officials said. The first winner of both will be announced Wednesday.
Similar programs have also been announced in New York, Maryland and Oregon. And United Airlines is offering vaccinated passengers the opportunity to win free flights.
“We encourage states to use their creativity,” Slavitt said. “People might say all this is frivolous. I say anything that ends the pandemic is time for us to pull out now.”
As of Tuesday, half of all American adults are vaccinated, he added, and 25 states plus the District of Columbia have fully vaccinated 50 percent or more of their adult populations. There are nine states where 70 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccination, according to Slavitt.
The milestone comes almost two weeks after public health officials relaxed social distancing and mask requirements for the 129 million adults now fully vaccinated, laying the groundwork for many states to further ease restrictions.