In a rare moment of the state employing the tools of positive reinforcement, at a press conference Thursday Gov. Inslee announced that Washington will offer well over $2 million in prizes to convince people to get a vaccine to stop the spread of a deadly respiratory virus.
According to prepared remarks, the "Shot of a Lifetime” sweepstakes will take place during the month of June, featuring $2 million in cash prizes, "nearly" $1 million for paid college tuition, sports and airline tickets, video game systems, smart speakers, and—that's right—sweet, sweet gift cards, motherfuckers!!!!! Unfortunately the state will not offer "jabs for joints," I'm afraid.
Last week, Office of Financial Management director David Schumacher redirected $2.5 million from the Disaster Response Account to the Department of Commerce to pay for some of the incentives.
Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said "we hope this will encourage more people to get this life-saving vaccine." Most people who have yet to get the shot basically believe the perceived disadvantages of getting it outweigh the advantages, and so the state's hoping that a chance to win a million bucks (plus over 100 other prizes!!!!) will help change that calculus.
Next week the Washington State Lottery will start weekly drawings for $250,000 cash prizes. On July 13, they'll draw the $1 million prize.
The Lottery will select the winners from the WA Department of Health's "statewide immunization database," according the press release, so you won't have to fill out a slip of paper at a gas station or anything. The only way to play is to sit for at least one shot. If you still need to do that, then please find a vaccine site close to you. The CDC gives providers three days to transmit immunization data to the state's database, so schedule that appointment as soon as you can. If you want to see if the state has recorded your immunization, then you can check that here.
The Lottery will contact winners and give them 72 hours to respond. If they don't hear back from the winner, then they'll pick somebody else.
The vaccinated will also be eligible for free fishing and hunting permits, Discover Passes, and camping permits for state parks.
Higher education incentives include "nearly $1 million" for "public four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges to run their own drawing for free tuition and expenses for vaccinated students."
Thirty 12 to 17-year-olds will also win a year of "tuition college credits" through the state's Guaranteed Education Tuition program.
Here's the sports ticket and airline ticket deets, straight from the press release:
2 free airline tickets to anywhere Alaska flies
4 tickets to an upcoming game
Full suite to an upcoming game
4 tickets to a game in August, plus two autographed jerseys
10 tickets a game for the rest of the season
4 club level seats, plus parking passes
Four 2021 season tickets, plus a team-signed jersey
The state hasn't forgotten about you foot-dragging gamers, either: "Microsoft will be giving away 300 Xboxs and GamePasses to vaccinated individuals, and Nintendo will be giving away Nintendo Switches. Google will give away 25 Google Nests and Amazon will be giving away 40 Echo Dots."
The DOH will also buy $500,000 in gift cards "to give away over the summer as part of their Care-a-Van mobile vaccination effort." The cards will "be for different kinds of retail offerings – from groceries to fishing gear to top soil."
Several states have instituted a lottery to help increase vaccination rates, some of which have been remarkably successful. Ohio recorded a 28% increase the week they announced their $1 million lottery. West Virginia included free guns and pick-up trucks in their lottery, Arkansas is offering scratch-offs and cash prizes, and California will give "a $15 million grand prize to be split among ten Californians."
Washington still plans fully to reopen on June 30, regardless of whether or not we hit the target of 70% of residents with at least one shot.