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Guns, trucks and cash: West Virginia takes vaccine incentives to new levels

The program will run from June 20 through August 4 and will be paid for using federal pandemic relief funds.

West Virginia is moving to expand its Covid-19 vaccine incentive program, Gov. Jim Justice announced on Tuesday.

Residents who enter the state's new vaccine incentive lottery will have the opportunity to win prizes such as custom hunting rifles and shotguns, custom trucks, weekend getaways at state parks and lifetime hunting and fishing licenses among other things.

Those who enter will also be enrolled in an opportunity to win large monetary prizes like a full ride scholarship to any higher education institution in West Virginia, $588,000 as the second place grand prize, and a first place grand price of $1.588 million.

West Virginians who have already been fully vaccinated will need to register to be entered to win the prizes.

The program will run from June 20 through Aug. 4 and be paid for with federal pandemic relief funds.

Vaccine incentives for the state first began in April with an announcement from Justice that residents ages 16-35 qualified to receive a $100 savings bond upon getting vaccinated. That incentive program started with over 20,000 registrations, but has since declined.

The new incentive program featuring a plethora of prizes comes amid a push to get more West Virginians vaccinated. In his Tuesday announcement, Justice explained that getting more people vaccinated is crucial to save lives and to restore financial stability within the state.

“The faster we get people across the finish line the more lives we save. That’s all there is to it,” Justice said. “If the tab just keeps running, the cost is enormous. The hospitalizations are enormous. We have to get all of our folks across the finish line.”

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services reports that roughly 51% of its population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and roughly 40% are fully vaccinated.

Justice's “Call to Arms” initiative sets goals of vaccinating 65% of all eligible West Virginians, 75% of West Virginians age 50 and older, and 85% of West Virginians age 65 and older with at least one dose by West Virginia’s 158th birthday on June 20, 2021.

Justice is hoping the new incentives will drive those numbers up, and he isn't alone. Earlier on Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced a "month of action" urging more people to get vaccinated prior to the July 4th holiday.

Some of the early summer incentives announced by the White House will include free beer, childcare and sports tickets in an effort to meet Biden's goal to get 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by next month.