Michigan launching $5M sweepstakes to boost vaccinations

About $5 million in cash and college scholarships will be given away in lottery-style drawings aimed at raising Michigan's COVID-19 vaccination rate. (July 1)

About $5 million in cash and college scholarships will be given away in lottery-style drawings aimed at raising Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday.

The incentive program features a $2 million jackpot, a $1 million prize and 30 daily drawings of $50,000 for residents ages 18 and older who have received at least one shot. Vaccinated residents ages 12 to 17 are eligible for one of nine four-year prepaid tuition contracts valued at $55,000.

The MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes is being launched after several states, including Ohio, offered millions of dollars to boost vaccinations — with mixed results.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for so many people in our state to do what they need to do to protect themselves and our communities but also get an opportunity to win a big prize,” Whitmer said at a news conference, warning that the coronavirus remains a threat to the unvaccinated — particularly with the spread of the more transmissible delta variant. The incentives could motivate those who have questions to seek answers so they feel comfortable being vaccinated, she said.

Nearly 62% of Michigan residents ages 16 and up have received at least one dose, ranking it near the middle among states, as infections have plummeted. Whitmer and state health officials want 70% vaccinated, which would require about 678,000 additional people to get a shot.

The weekly number of first doses administered has dropped for five straight weeks and was roughly 36,000 last week, 9% of the high from early April when Michigan opened eligibility to everyone who was authorized at that time. About one in five Americans said they probably or definitely would not get vaccinated, according to a May poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The sweepstakes is being operated by Meijer and the Michigan Association of United Ways and will end in August. The state, which encountered legal restrictions against directly running the lottery, will fund the raffles with federal coronavirus relief aid that was allocated to Michigan.

Starting Thursday, residents who want to participate must sign up at www.MIShotToWin.com or call (888) 535-6136. All vaccinated individuals will be eligible for the $1 million and $2 million drawings, which will be held on or about July 11 and Aug. 4.

Only residents who become newly vaccinated can vie for the $50,000 daily prizes. Those drawings will begin Tuesday and will correspond to a specific day entrants get their first shot. The raffle for the Michigan Education Trust contracts will occur on or about Aug. 4. They cover full tuition and mandatory fees at any state university and can be used to lower them for students who attend private or out-of-state colleges.

Vaccine lotteries in other states have shown they are “very effective at getting more people vaccinated very quickly,” said Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of the Protect Michigan Commission, which promotes the vaccine’s effectiveness and works to overcome hesitancy.

Dr. James Grant, chief medical officer and senior vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, strongly encouraged people to be vaccinated.

“It’s the best defense, the best line against COVID-19,” he said. “Herd immunity has been effective against measles, mumps, polio, chicken pox amongst so many other infectious diseases. We just have to get to that point now with COVID.”