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Michigan to announce $5 million lottery for COVID vaccine as rates lag

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set to announce Michigan will offer $5 million in lotteries and scholarships to vaccinate 768,000 more residents. (Bridge file photo)

July 14: Michigan vaccine lottery has first winners. But inoculation rates still flat.
July 7: Is the Michigan vaccine lottery working? Depends how you define success.
Update: Michigan hopes $5 million vaccine lottery inspires more people to get shots

Michigan is jumping into the vaccine lottery game with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expected to announce Thursday $5 million in cash prizes and nine college scholarships to those getting vaccinated.

Whitmer will reveal the details at a morning announcement in Lansing.

The “MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes” calls for cash prizes and scholarships, each valued at $55,000, according to a media release.

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“The goal of the public outreach campaign, consisting of a series of statewide drawings, is to provide incentives to Michiganders to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible this summer to get the state fully back to normal,” according to a statement from Whitmer’s administration.

“The aim of the MI Shot To Win Sweepstakes is to increase the state’s vaccination rate by roughly 9 percent – or nearly 768,000 Michiganders – to achieve the statewide goal of 70 percent of residents age 16 and older who are immunized.”

The announcement comes more than two months after other states offered similar incentives, including five $1 million jackpots in neighboring Ohio, and as the rate of new vaccination has dropped substantially.

Over the past three weeks, an average of 45,000 people in Michigan have started the vaccine regimen, compared to an average of 103,000 in early June and 243,000 in early May.

More than 3.5 million people eligible for the vaccine have not gotten any doses of the vaccine. In some parts of Michigan, in both urban and rural areas, the vaccination rate is 20 to 30 percentage points below the state’s overall rate of 61.7 percent.

In late May, as other states were rolling out the incentives, Whitmer said the Michigan constitution prohibited Michigan from having a lottery.

Her Wednesday release indicates a host of other agencies, including Meijer, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, state university groups and Michigan Association of United Ways, are involved in the effort.

The announcement comes as top state officials warn that Michigan faces a potential surge if the highly contagious Delta variant, which has been detected in 15 Michigan counties, becomes more prevalent as they expect.

Experts say the existing vaccines protect against the variant — but people with just one dose are more susceptible to becoming infected.

Michigan is the latest in a long list of states, from California and Oregon to Illinois and Maryland, to offer big-money lotteries to boost inoculation rates.

Experts say it’s too early to tell if they are working, since many were rolled out as vaccines became available to younger residents. 

The lottery was credited for creating a short surge of vaccinations in Ohio, but the state still lags Michigan in vaccination rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Louisiana, more than 466,000 residents have registered for vaccinations in the week since a $2.3 million lottery was announced last week, according to news reports. 

In Oregon, though, the pace of vaccinations has slipped in recent weeks after a boost from a $1 million lottery, according to The Oregonian. Ohio, meanwhile, in recent weeks has focused more on smaller incentives such as $25 gift cards to entice the reluctant to get vaccines.

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