Vaccinated adult Ohioans who want a chance to win $1 million in a series of five consecutive drawings beginning on May 26 will now have to register for entry, the state's Director of Health, Stephanie McCloud, announced Monday.
People will be able to register online at the state's new website for the vaccine lottery, ohiovaxamillion.com. The site went live today, May 18, and CityBeat staff successfully completed the short registration form.
Those without internet access can register by phone at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH. Teenagers who wish to be entered into concurrent drawings for college scholarships to Ohio public universities will have to register as well.
The "opt-in" policy is a departure from Gov. Mike DeWine's announcement last week. He'd said that all Ohioans who had received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine would be automatically eligible for the lottery, where five Ohioans will win $1 million each over the course of five weeks.
The required registration will significantly reduce the size of the pool entrants, thereby increasing the odds of winning (the odds are already far better than for the Ohio Lottery).
The Vax-a-Million lottery is legal, but it's not without its detractors. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has raised concerns.
"Just because a thing may be legally done does not mean it should be done,” Yost said in a statement to the Ohio Capital Journal. “The wisdom and propriety of this expenditure is a question for the Governor and the General Assembly."
The Vax-a-Million promotion was created to incentivize wider vaccine adoption in the lead-up to June 2, when the state will lift all pandemic health orders. Ohio is dropping the restrictions despite being far short of several benchmarks that DeWine and other officials had long said should be met. DeWine earlier this year said that the rate of coronavirus cases would have to drop to 50 per 100,000 Ohioans before orders such as the requirement to wear masks indoors in public spaces would be dropped. On May 12, that rate stood at 123 per 100,000 and was dropping at a rate of only two to three percentage points a day, the governor said.
Demand for vaccinations in Ohio has plummeted. Right now, the state is only using about 20% of its federal allotment of doses, and vaccination sites across the state are reducing their operations in response to dwindling demand.
In Ohio, 42% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Only 37% are fully vaccinated, according to Ohio's COVID-19 dashboard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a “fully vaccinated” person is one who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson/Janssen).
All children over the age of 12 are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine and DeWine said that to incentivize vaccinations among teenagers, they would be entered into a lottery of their own: for a full-ride four-year college scholarship to an Ohio university.
In Ohio, people must be at least 12 years old for the Pfizer vaccine and 18 years old for the Moderna and J&J vaccines. Parental consent is required for minors. Find information and vaccine locations on Ohio's coronavirus portal.