Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery Offers Full-Ride Scholarships

Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery Offers Full-Ride Scholarships
portrait of Anne Dennon
By Anne Dennon

Published on May 21, 2021

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To spur lagging demand for COVID-19 vaccines, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently unveiled a weekly $1 million lottery for state residents aged 18 and older who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Residents aged 12-17 who have gotten at least one dose can enter to win full-ride scholarships to any in-state college or university.

The lottery will announce two winners each week (one for each drawing) for five weeks in a row starting Wednesday, May 26. Prize money will come from federal coronavirus relief funds.

Ohio's lottery is part of a growing trend of incentivizing COVID-19 inoculation, particularly among young people. Polls conducted last spring by Pew Research Center and the Associated Press found that around one-third of young Americans did not intend to get vaccinated.

Ohio’s college lottery is credited for the state’s surge in vaccination rates, particularly among residents under 16.

According to ongoing surveys conducted by KFF, nearly a quarter of 18-to-29-year-olds want to wait and see the effects before getting a vaccine.

College-aged individuals remain the least likely to say they will get the vaccine, even as overall intent to get vaccinated has grown. Meanwhile, recent polls indicate that three-fourths of parents don't plan on getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19, either right away or at all.

Ohio's college lottery, announced the same week the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds, is credited for the state's surge in vaccination rates. A full third of shots administered the week following the announcement went to those under 16.

How to Enter Ohio's COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery

The "Ohio Vax-a-Million" lottery consists of five $1 million drawings and five drawings for four-year scholarships to any Ohio public college or university — room and board included. The cash lottery is open to permanent Ohio residents aged 18 and older, while the scholarship lottery is open to permanent Ohio residents aged 12-17.

Winners must have received at least one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the Sunday before the weekly Wednesday drawing.

The pool of names for the lottery was originally going to be drawn from Ohio's voter registration database, but now the drawing will be opt-in only. Vaccinated Ohio residents can enter by filling out an online questionnaire or by calling the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Ohio Vax-a-Million Drawing Schedule

Entry Deadline (by End of Day) Drawing Date Announcement Date
May 23, 2021 May 24, 2021 May 26, 2021
May 30, 2021 May 31, 2021 June 2, 2021
June 6, 2021 June 7, 2021 June 9, 2021
June 13, 2021 June 14, 2021 June 16, 2021
June 20, 2021 June 21, 2021 June 23, 2021

Incentivizing vs. Mandating Vaccines for College Students

COVID-19 vaccine lotteries, now offered by Ohio, New York, and Maryland, are the biggest campaigns so far that have been launched to convert the vaccine hesitant. The promise of free college, like the promise of being able to go mask-free on campus, offers a softer alternative to strict COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates.

While hundreds of colleges say all in-person students must be vaccinated by the fall term, most Ohio colleges will not require students to get the vaccine in order to return to campus.

States, schools, and students are divided over COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Some welcome a high bar for vaccination as the only path to colleges returning to normal, while others contend that emergency-use-only vaccines cannot be mandated.

Feature Image: Phynart Studio / E+ / Getty Images

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