People who have not yet received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine now have more reasons why they might reconsider as Gov. Jay Inslee announced the “Shot of a Lifetime” incentives Thursday.
During a June 3 press conference, the governor said individuals vaccinated in Washington at any time are eligible for the new incentives, as long as their information was entered into the state’s immunization records. The incentives range from cash prizes up to $1 million, to sports tickets, video game consoles and state park passes. The new initiative is part of a push to increase the number of vaccinated Washingtonians as the state approaches a threshold for full reopening.
Lottery Director Marcus Glasper said the drawings will be conducted weekly by Washington’s Lottery, the biggest of which is four drawings for $250,000 every Tuesday beginning June 8 and there will be one for $1 million on July 13.
On top of the cash payouts, weekly drawings will occur for a number of other prizes. Washington State Parks will give away 80 gift cards for a week of free camping, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will give away 80 $100 gift certificates for hunting and fishing licenses, Inslee said. Four hundred Discover Passes for access to state-managed lands will also be handed out.
Other prizes include tickets and exclusive seating for professional sports games, Nintendo and Microsoft game systems, smart speakers and gift cards. The gift cards totaling $1 million to businesses will be distributed through local chambers of commerce to be given away at vaccine locations and $500,000 in gift cards bill be passed out through the Washington State Department of Health’s Care-A-Van mobile vaccination program.
The incentives also include education funding, as Inslee said close to $1 million will be distributed to four and two-year universities and colleges for higher education assistance for vaccinated students. Alongside the cash drawings, 12- to 17-year-olds who received a dose of vaccine are eligible for 30 one-year college tuition credits through the state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program.
Inslee called the incentives program a “tremendous statewide effort,” adding any Washington resident regardless of citizenship status is eligible to win the prizes.
“You do not have to go anywhere or do anything except get at least one vaccine dose if you have already done so to be entered into these drawings,” Glasper said.
He explained those in the Washington State Immunization Information System (IIS) would be automatically assigned a number by the state health department. Following the drawings from Washington’s Lottery, the winning numbers will be provided to the state health department to find the matching names, Glasper said, after which a state lottery employee will contact the winner about how to collect their prize.
Winners of the cash prizes will be contacted the day following the drawing, while those of material prizes would be contacted within three days after the drawing date, according to Washington’s Lottery’s website.
Winners will have 72 hours to respond to contact from the state lottery in order to collect their prize, Glasper said, after which alternate winners will be selected. Those getting their first dose while the contest is going on must have the record of their immunization entered into the IIS. Vaccine providers have 72 hours to enter a dose into the IIS, though most report the information faster, said Lacy Fehrenbach, the deputy secretary for COVID-19 response for the Washington Department of Health.
In some cases, Washington residents may not be in the state’s IIS. Inslee’s external affairs executive director Nick Streuli said the state has been pursuing vaccination data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, and in lieu of that avenue has been considering an opt-in option for those who received their doses through those and other federal departments.
Apart from the new incentives, Inslee mentioned if the state has 70 percent of eligible residents 16 and older with at least one vaccine dose, Washington could enter full reopening ahead of the June 30 date he set three weeks prior. As of the press conference, the state was at 63 percent of eligible individuals vaccinated, he said.
At the press conference, Washington State Secretary of Health Umair Shah noted the following day marked 500 days since the state began its COVID-19 response, adding the state was just shy of 4 million residents with at least one dose of vaccine.
“If you are still thinking about it, you’re on the fence or you haven’t just quite made it down to the local pharmacy or gotten your shot some other way, we want to make sure you do everything you can to go ahead and get vaccinated today,” Shah said.
Inslee said success in other states using similar incentives made Thursday’s announcement fit in with Washington’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
“This is a very, very common-sense investment to save lives,” Inslee said. “We know people are busy … but if this can have them think just a little more often about getting that vaccine and saving lives, that’s a great investment for the state of Washington.”