Ohio’s Vaccine Lottery Didn’t Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rate, Study Says. Governor Disputes.
A box of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine vials at a drive-thru vaccination site at the Meigs County fairgrounds in Pomeroy, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Stephen Zenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Many states offered incentives for residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it became available to anyone over the age of 16. One of the most well-known incentives was found in Ohio, which created a Vax-A-Million lottery that would enter people who obtained the COVID-19 vaccine into a lottery for $1 million. Children who were vaccinated would be entered into a drawing for a full-ride scholarship to attend one of Ohio’s state universities.

But a new study suggests the lottery didn’t increase the state’s vaccination rate any more than states that did not offer a similar lottery, Fox 8 reported. The study, conducted by Boston University’s School of Medicine, compared vaccination rates in Ohio with some states that offered no such incentive. It found that Ohio did see an increase in vaccinations after the lottery was announced – but other states saw a similar spike around the same time because the eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine was expanded to include those added 12 to 15.

Dan Tierney, spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH), suggested the study was flawed for focusing on the expanded age group. Tierney said the state had already removed the younger age group when it compiled data on the lottery in order to tout its success.

“The first week after Vax-a-million, we saw a 44 percent increase in Ohioans 16 and older getting the vaccine. According to the Washington Post, no other state saw an increase along those lines. We saw a 17 percent increase in those 16 and older in the second week,” Tierney told Fox 8.

Tierney also told the outlet that the Vax-A-Million campaign provided other benefits, such as free publicity for the vaccines that otherwise would have cost around $50 million.

“One of the other things that was unanticipated but makes sense in retrospect, was it got people talking about the vaccine in a way that was fun, less fear,” Tierney said.

Vaccination rates have stalled across the country, Fox 8 reported, but Tierney said Ohio would announce additional incentives soon.

“It’s moving up the vaccination rate that is so important, especially with the delta variant going on right now,” he said.

At the end of May, the first winner of the Ohio vaccine lottery was announced, The Daily Wire’s Charlotte Pence Bond reported at the time. Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton won the first million-dollar prize, while Joseph Costello of Englewood won the college scholarship.

“We’re excited that this has inspired so many Ohioans to get vaccinated, and we’re thrilled to announce the winners of the first round of drawings,” Gov. DeWine said at the time.

Bugenske, 22, called her win a “whirlwind” during a press conference.

“It absolutely has not processed yet. I am still digesting it — and I like to say that it feels like this is happening to a different person. I cannot believe it,” she added.

Costello said he was “very excited” about his scholarship.

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