COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – When state officials announce the names of the first winners of Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery on Wednesday, they have reason to savor the moment.
Despite bipartisan criticism of the drawings and a Republican lawmaker’s plans to introduce a bill to stop them, COVID-19 vaccinations are up since Gov. Mike DeWine announced the lottery on May 12.
In the 12 full days since the announcement, vaccinations in Ohio are up 63.1% compared to the 12 days before (261,742 first shots from May 13-24 versus 160,480 from May 1-12).
“The vaccinations that we’ve received after we announced the Vax-a-Million have exceeded my wildest expectations,” DeWine said Monday during a coronavirus briefing. New vaccinations had been falling for more than a month.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am about it.”
The top counties that increased were Lawrence (145.58%), Athens (126.31%) and Delaware (119.8%). Even vaccinations of out-of-state residents shot up 24.55%.
All 88 Ohio counties saw first shots increase since the lottery announcement, but some increases were only a fraction of those at the top.
Knox County ranked last with a 9.04% increase, while Perry (15.86%) and Sandusky (19.64%) ranked just above.
Even the small increases were improvements, though, as all but two counties’ vaccinations from May 1-12 were lower than the previous 12 days, April 19-30.
For example, Muskingum County turned an 11.16% increase in first shots from these two periods into a 48.95% increase after the lottery announcement.
The only county not following this trend was Perry (pop. 36,000). Perry County saw a 17.42% increase before the lottery (May 1-12 vs. April 19-30), but a lower increase (15.86%) afterward (May 13-24 vs. May 1-12).
Perry’s most recent vaccinations may tick up, however, as the state health department backdates new data in the coming days.
“I think the facts show that once we put this in place there’s been a lot more excitement about vaccines, and we’ve seen vaccines go up,” DeWine said of the lottery. “And so that will save lives. That will help get us back moving forward at a faster rate.”
Muddling the data somewhat is that the same day DeWine announced Vax-a-Million, Ohioans aged 12-15 became eligible for the vaccine. But even though that age group has contributed to the increase in vaccinations since mid-May, older age groups have also shot up.
“We have seen increases really across all demographic groups, and that’s a very, very good thing,” DeWine said.
Lottery details and copycats
The first of five weekly drawings awarding $1 million to an adult and a full college scholarship to a minor will happen Wednesday at 7:29 p.m. and be carried live on NBC4. 2,758,470 adults are entered for the million and 104,386 minors are entered for the scholarship.
DeWine said Monday that the drawing – the first of its kind in the country – was worth $15 million in “earned media” in just the first week, referring to the value of the publicity it generated.
Maryland soon followed with its own lottery worth $2 million (40 prizes of $40,000 and a $400,000 grand prize). In Oregon, a person in every county will win $10,000, one person will win $1 million and five 12-to-17-year-olds will each get $100,000 toward college. Delaware, Colorado and Arkansas started lotteries, too.
Although names of the first two winners will be announced Wednesday, the Ohio Lottery conducted the drawing on Monday via random number generator, and the Ohio Department of Health verified the eligibility of the winners.
This process will repeat for four more weeks. To be eligible, a person must be an Ohio resident with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Sign-ups for each week’s drawing close every Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Visit www.ohiovaxamillion.com or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.