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First Ohio 'Vax-a-Million' lottery winners revealed

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 5/27/2021 Jake Dima
Mike DeWine et al. posing for a photo © Provided by Washington Examiner

An Ohio adult and teenager are the first two winners of the state's "Vax-a-Million" lottery, which awards monetary sums to random residents who have received at least one COVID-19 shot.

Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton earned a $1 million check, while Joseph Costello of Englewood won a full scholarship to a state school, according to Ohio lottery officials. Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine, a Republican, posed for a picture with Costello on Wednesday.

The state's lottery is offering "five, four-year full-ride scholarships, including room-and-board tuition, and books to any Ohio state college or university" for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 in addition to five $1 million payouts to adults over the age of 18.

Subsequent winners will be revealed each Wednesday through June 23.

MIKE DEWINE DEFENDS 'VAX-A-MILLION' PROGRAM AS LEGISLATORS MOUNT EFFORT TO STOP IT

The competition, which is funded by federal coronavirus relief funds, has been the subject of pushback as a bipartisan group of legislators has argued it is a misuse of taxpayer funds. Dewine defended the program as a way "to generate excitement" for vaccinations.

"We needed something aspirational to generate excitement and motivate those on the fence to get vaccinated now. ... I was convinced that the excitement of people talking for weeks about who would be next to win a million dollars would significantly increase vaccinations," the governor wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

DeWine said the results have "exceeded [his] wildest expectations," with vaccination rates up 49% among those 16 and older, 36% among minorities, 65% among those living in rural areas, and 94% among 16- and 17-year-olds, according to the most recently available data.

"The publicity the lottery has generated has spread the word more cost effectively than a P.S.A. campaign would at this point, generating over $23 million worth of free ad equivalency dollars about vaccinations," he continued. "According to one estimate, preventing just 40 severe Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalization would pay for the entire program."

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GOP state Rep. Jena Powell, who called Dewine's project "an insult to our hard working constituents", introduced House Bill 329, legislation that would redirect Vax-a-Million's funding. The bill had 29 cosponsors as of Tuesday.

A total of 39% of Ohio's population is fully vaccinated, while 45% have received at least one dose.

Tags: News, Ohio, Mike Dewine, Vaccination, Coronavirus, Lottery, College, Spending

Original Author: Jake Dima

Original Location: First Ohio 'Vax-a-Million' lottery winners revealed

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