COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery Commission outlined details about the state's "Vax-a-Million" drawings that will award one vaccinated Ohioan each week for five weeks with $1 million and one vaccinated Ohio teen or child with a full four-year scholarship. We've got the details on how it works and how to enter.
On Monday, Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health and Pat McDonald, director of the Ohio Lottery, answered questions regarding the drawings.
First things first, you can register to be part of the drawings online at OhioVaxAMillion.com here, or by calling 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
Here's everything else you need to know about the statewide contest:
Who is eligible?
For the $1 million drawing, all permanent Ohio residents who received at least their first COVID-19 vaccination shot, either Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, prior to the drawing date and are 18 year or older are eligible.
For the college scholarship drawings, all permanent Ohio residents between the ages of 12 and 17 who have received at least their first COVID-19 vaccination shot are eligible
Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Lottery Commission and Governor's Office employees and officers, or blood relatives or spouses of such employees or officers living as a member of that person's household will not be eligible to win.
Individuals incarcerated for a felony conviction are not eligible.
When is the contest?
The first $1 million drawing will take place on May 24 and the state will announce a winner of the drawing for adult Ohio residents ages 18 or older who received at least one vaccine on May 26. This announcement will happen every Wednesday at 7:29 p.m. for five weeks during a one-minute slot conducted by the Ohio Lottery.
Also on May 26, Ohio will announce the winner of a drawing for Ohio residents between the ages of 12 and 17 who has been vaccinated. The winner will receive a full, four-year scholarship to a state university. This will happen every Wednesday, for five straight Wednesdays.
The final drawing will take place on June 21 with the final announcement taking place June 23.
How do I enter?
While the state previously announced it would be getting the pool of eligible Ohioans from the voter database, the state decided to make the contest an opt-in program. The opt-in option will allow the state to more quickly verify vaccination status and contact information within 48 hours of the drawing.
To enter, individuals must opt-in by entering on the Ohio Vax-a-Million website that launched on Tuesday, May 18. To visit the site, click here.
Those without internet access can enter by calling 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
How will I know if I won?
If the state can verify all vaccination status and residency eligibility on their own, the winner each week will find out with the rest of the state during the Wednesday night drawing.
If for some reason the state is unable to verify the eligibility, winners may be contacted before the announcement to verify their eligibility with the state.
What privacy do I have if I enter the contest?
As part of the opt-in, applicants are signing a waiver allowing ODH to verify their vaccination status.
Unlike a typical Ohio Lottery drawing, all winners will be publicly announced and anonymity is not an option, the state said.
"We want and are requiring the individual to be known and make it public the winner. We think it's a public record. We think it's exciting, entertaining, to allow the Ohio residents to know who the winner is," McDonald said.
Do I need to enter each week?
No, Ohioans who enter who do not win will remain in the pool of entrants each week during the five-week contest.
Duplicate entrants will be cleared from the system as will the entry of the winner each week.
I got my vaccine in another state, am I still eligible?
"If you are a permanent Ohio resident, if you got vaccinated, we don't care where. As long as we can verify it through some combination of your vaccination card or the vaccine provider, you are more than eligible," McCloud said.
How is the drawing conducted?
A random number generator will be used to conduct the vaccine lottery drawing. One winner and several alternates will be selected in each drawing.
The drawings will be attended by the lottery draw security and IT staff and observed by representatives from the auditor of state's office.
What happens if a winner is deemed ineligible?
After being selected in the drawing, the Ohio Department of Health will check the winner's eligibility and vaccination status. If the winner is ineligible, the prize will go to an alternate. The verification process for winner eligibility will continue through the list of alternate winners until one is verified as eligible.
Residents who win will be contacted based on the information provided in their entry form. Winners may be asked for their vaccination card in addition to the ODH's vaccine verification process.
Where is the money coming from for the drawings and is it legal?
McCloud said that the funds being used for the lottery drawing, which come from the CARES Act, have been legally cleared to be used in this manner as it's being used to increase vaccinations and spread awareness amid the pandemic.
"It is legal to use the funds for what we're using them for," McCloud said. "It is broadly interpreted in the statute to bring awareness, to help encourage and to facilitate uptake of the vaccine."
What if I can't get the vaccine for medical reasons? Can I enter?
Unfortunately, Ohioans who for medical reasons can not get the vaccine are not able to enter the drawing, McCloud said.
"At this point, this is a vaccine Vax-a-Million drawing and the drawing is going to be for individuals who have started their vaccine. A very small number of people who may not be able to take the vaccine as a result of an anaphylactic response to ingredients in the vaccine, a very small number of people. But like with the rest of the money, whether we were to use this for promotions, PSAs, things like that, it's going to be directed at those people eligible to take the vaccine up," McCloud said. "This certainly is in no way intended to discriminate against those individuals. This is simply, as is everything else when we're trying to increase awareness and uptake, this money is targeted at those individuals who may be on the fence, who are eligible to obtain it but have not made that decision yet, maybe haven't asked those questions that they need to have asked."
How is the money distributed?
The $1 million is a lump sum payment and will be distributed to each winner as soon as possible, the state said.
Is the prize money taxed?
Yes. An IRS form 1099 will be issued to each winner for the $1 million.
For scholarship winners, there is no tax, but McCloud said there may be tax liability for room and board if applicable.
Where are the scholarship funds accepted?
Right now, students who win the four-year scholarship including room and board, tuition, and books through the Vax-a-Million plan will be able to use it at any state college or university.
The state said it is still evaluating if students will be able to use the scholarship funds at private colleges and universities.
Winning the scholarship does not guarantee a student gets into a college or university and they will still need the same qualifications for admittance as any other student.
Can Ohioans under 18 looking to win the scholarship enter on their own?
Yes, students can opt-in on their own but will need a parent or legal guardian to verify their vaccination status and eligibility if they are selected.
Will this actually lead to more Ohioans getting vaccinated?
McCloud said it already is. Since announcing the contest last week, the state has already seen more people choosing to get vaccinated.
"This has been very successful. This past Friday was our highest vaccine administration day in three weeks, since April 2013. We had 25,414 shots administered. And I know there's a question about the fact that it was opened up to those individuals who are 12 to 15 years old and that some people may think, well, that's what's attributing to the uptake—during that three week time period that I just outlined, people who were ages 30 to 74, we were experiencing a 24% decrease week-over-week for those prior to Friday. Last Friday, that age group saw a 6% increase," McCloud said. "So not only have we achieved our goal of increasing public awareness and interest, but we have slowed what was a consistent decline and uptake. And in certain age groups, we're seeing an increase again. And so this is doing exactly what we intended it to do."
Is this bribery?
McCloud stressed that this contest is not a bribe. It is a health initiative by the state to increase vaccinations and get Ohio back to normal life at the end of a pandemic.
"We're not paying people. You are not guaranteed to win anything. We're not meeting you at the vaccine site, slipping you a 20 or C-note to get the vaccine," McCloud said. "This is something that is just a bold initiative to raise that awareness so that individuals ask those questions and hopefully if they were, again, on the fence or not sure or thought maybe they'd wait a little while, now they'll take the opportunity, ask those questions and move us forward toward our goal."
What if the website isn't working for me?
If anyone is having difficulty accessing ohiovaxamillion.com, the Ohio Department of Health offered the following tips:
- Refresh your page. If you visited the website before it went live, you may need to refresh the page to load the current website.
- Clear your cache in your browsing history. If you visited the website before it went live, your browser may be loading a previous version of the website. Clearing your cache will force your web browser to load the current version of the website.
- Update your web browser. Older web browsers may have difficulty loading ohiovaxamillion.com and its security features designed to keep your personal information safe. Updating your web browser to the newest version will not only help you load ohiovaxamillion.com properly, but it will also give you the most up-to-date security features to protect your computer or device, as well as your personal information.