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Health leaders hail Vax-a-Million lottery as success even before its launch

Published: May. 17, 2021 at 9:43 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The goal of Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery is to increase vaccination rates among adults. But even though the registration website doesn’t launch until Tuesday, state health leaders were already hailing it a success Monday.

Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud this morning said vaccination rates among Ohioans ages 30-74 were down 24% over the last three weeks.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the lottery on Wednesday. Friday, McCloud said the state saw a 6% uptick in that age group.

“We are already seeing the success of this program,” McCloud said.

She and DeWine both said there is anecdotal evidence that shows people are getting their first vaccine doses just to enter the lottery. Any uptick in vaccination rates would be enough to say the program paid off, McCloud said.

Friday, the state saw its best turnout for first-dose shots in the last three weeks. Still, more than 1-in-3 people who received their first dose between the day after the lottery was announced and Sunday were kids and teens. Kids and teens have received more first doses since the lottery was announced than everyone 50 and older combined, according to data compiled by 13abc’s Vaccine Tracker through the Ohio Department of Health.

DeWine announced the lottery the same night he said kids 12-15 could get in line for a shot. They’re not eligible for the lottery, which is only open to residents 18 and older.

Time will have to tell if the program sees sustained upticks among other age groups.

But the lottery has gained widespread national and global media attention. That also has made the program worth it in McCloud’s eyes.

“Not only have we achieved our goal of increasing public awareness and interest, but we have slowed what was a consistent decline and uptake,” she said. “In certain age groups, we’re seeing an increase again.”

It comes at a time when vaccination rates are slowing across the state.

Ohio set its single-day record for administering first doses of the vaccine on March 31, days after all adults could register for an appointment.

More Ohioans received their first dose of the vaccine on that day (107,726) than in the last eight days combined entering Monday (104,380).

Like McCloud, DeWine on Monday said any increase in vaccinations, or at least bottoming out the slowdown, would be worth the $5 million given away to five residents.

“We have to do everything within our power to get rid of this pandemic and drive it to the ground,” DeWine said. “Getting more people vaccinated will do that. We know that.”

Ohio was set to vaccinate its five millionth resident on Monday. 42.74% of residents are now at least partially vaccinated, with 37.5% fully covered.

Nearly 54% of Ohioans ages 20 and older have received at least one dose, and 78% of those ages 65 and older are at least partially vaccinated.

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