Another Vax-a-Million drawing, another Greater Cincinnati winner.
Esperanza Diaz of Butler County won the final $1 million prize Wednesday in Ohio's lottery that incentivizes COVID-19 vaccination. Diaz had initially missed Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's call about her triumph and eventually talked to DeWine's aide Ann O'Donnell, WLWT-TV reports.
"I'm excited! I couldn't sleep last night!" Diaz said during a media briefing with the governor on Thursday.
Diaz, a dental assistant, is the third person from Greater Cincinnati to win a prize in the Vax-a-Million drawings. Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton was the lotto's very first $1 million winner back on May 26, while Sean Horning of Cincinnati won a college scholarship on June 16.
The Vax-a-Million promotion was created to incentivize wider vaccine adoption in Ohio, the first state in the nation to implement such an activity (other states, including Kentucky, soon created their own vaccination incentives). All Ohioans who had received at least one vaccination dose were eligible for Vax-a-Million, which rewarded five adult winners with $1 million each. In addition, five vaccinated Ohio residents ages 12-17 each won a full-ride, four-year scholarship to any public college or university within the state. Drawings were held each Wednesday for five weeks.
Representatives from the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery have said that hundreds of thousands of Ohioans entered the Vax-a-Million drawing on May 18, when the promotion was launched. But Ideastream's Anna Huntsman reported Wednesday that while Ohio saw a 43% increase in vaccinations immediately after the sweepstakes were announced, the numbers had decreased each week since.
By Wednesday, roughly 47% of Ohioans have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, well below the national average of 55%. Only 43% are fully vaccinated, according to Ohio's COVID-19 dashboard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a “fully vaccinated” person is one who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) or who is two weeks past a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson/Janssen).
Ohioans 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.
DeWine, who took heat on all sides for the promotion, has said the goal with Vax-a-Million was primarily to push Ohioans who were on the fence about vaccinations over the edge. Doctors and scientists continue to urge vaccination to lower COVID-19 transmission rates, especially as the coronavirus continues to mutate into deadlier versions of itself.
For information about COVID-19 and to find vaccination locations, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.