Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on May 26 defended the Buckeye State’s lottery program to promote COVID-19 vaccines.
The governor made the comments on the day the state was to announce the winner of the first of five $1 million draws and the first of an equal number of winners of a full-ride scholarship to any Ohio state college or university.
“The true waste at this point in the pandemic is for someone to die from COVID when that’s not necessary, when we have the vaccine that could save their life,” DeWine told CNN.
DeWine offered the defense when questioned about the comments of a fellow state Republican, who said the lottery is a waste of taxpayer dollars and basically a bribe.
“We need to save lives,” he said. “We need to get Ohio moving forward. The way we do it is through vaccines. This is our ticket out of the pandemic. This is the great tool that we have now.”
DeWine added that vaccinations in his state were going down, similar to the rest of the nation, prior to the lottery program’s announcement. The number of people getting the vaccine has since gone up by 45 percent, DeWine said. The biggest jump—94 percent—occurred among those 16 and 17 years of age, the governor added.
“And you can just hear mom and dad, and you can hear the students thinking, you know, ‘I might get a four-year scholarship.’ The odds for that are pretty good,” DeWine said.
“Not only are we going to have a millionaire tonight, not only are we going to have a student who going to be given who is going to be guaranteed room, board, tuition, everything else at our great state universities, but even more important is the number of Ohioans who got vaccinated.”
The winners were drawn from a pool of more than 100,000 people, according to DeWine.
The Republican governor announced the state’s incentive program (pdf), named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” on May 12. New York and Maryland on May 20 also announced that they will be rolling out similar vaccine incentive programs.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that New Yorkers who get vaccinated from May 24 to May 28 will be given a lottery ticket with a cash prize of as much as $5 million.
Meanwhile, a vaccinated Marylander will be chosen at random every day for 40 days for a $40,000 prize, ending July 3, Gov. Larry Hogan said. On July 4, one person will receive a grand prize of $400,000.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.