Last night was the deadline to sign up for the May 26th first round of Ohio's Vax-A-Million lottery. Any Ohio resident who is at least 12 years old and has had at least one shot is eligible to win one of two prizes: one of 5, million dollar prizes (for those who are 18 or older) or a full 4 year scholarship (including room and board and books) to any Ohio state college for a winner between 12 and 17. Missed out? There are 4 more drawings for the next 4 weeks-- unless the far right can pass a bill to kill the program-- with help from Ohio's zombie Democratic Party.
The lottery is very popular-- over a million Ohioans have entered already-- and the rate of vaccinations in Ohio, which had been dropping, turned around and started increasing as soon as the lottery was announced. It is up by 33% now, which has angered Republican extremists. Needless to say-- despite this being an initiative of a Republican governor-- the far right has already lost its collective mind over it. This morning, one right-wing sociopath from the state legislature, Jena Powell, was on CNN's New Day whining that "It feels like a bribe to Ohioans. Ohioans don’t want gimmicky programs." she's wrong; Ohioans very much DO want this gimmicky program. She denies that the increase in the state's vaccination since the lottery was announced was caused by the lottery-- she's a moron-- and says she's going to offer legislation to stop the lottery.
Last week Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said "This dramatic increase in vaccinations indicates that the Vax-a-Million drawing has been impactful in creating momentum for vaccinations throughout Ohio We are grateful that the drawings are helping spur Ohioans to take this important measure to protect their health, their loved ones, and their community."
The GOP Death Cult trying to stop the lottery-- and, the vaccination program-- challenges the legality of DeWine's carefully vetted program-- which is now being copied in several other states, including Maryland, New York and Oregon. McCloud said that the use of federal funds for the prizes is completely legal under the requirements set out by the Treasury for use of CARES Act grants. She said "We have to use this money to bring awareness, to help encourage and to facilitate uptake of the vaccine. We knew we were going to find innovative ways to bring vaccine education and vaccine uptake to Ohioans." The Death Cult is alone in their opposition. This editorial from the Cincinnati Enquirer is typical of how Ohioans are feeling about the lottery throughout the state:
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine made a big bet by initiating a state vaccine lottery to encourage more people to get vaccinated, and so far, it looks like he's hit the jackpot. The governor wagered that creating a $1 million prize drawing for those who are vaccinated would be incentive enough to get more Ohioans inoculated against COVID-19. "Ohio Vax-a-Million," drawings will be held for five consecutive Wednesdays, starting May 26, to pick the winners. Preliminary data (as of May 19) showed that more than 113,000 Ohioans had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines after the announcement. That represented a 53% increase in vaccinations over the previous week... Let's give DeWine credit for his creativity at a time when getting more people vaccinated is crucial to stopping the spread of the virus and returning our society to normal. And if five people become millionaires in the process, even better... [K]udos to DeWine for trying to a different and effective way to get more shots in arms. Turns out money talks after all.
The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that the lottery has raised "DeWine's national profile a year before his reelection bid and shifted the conversation around COVID-19 in Ohio-- but the move is unlikely to ingratiate him with Republicans who were unhappy with his pandemic response. 'There’s no back-end reward for being a national leader on this,' said David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati. 'It’s a very severe bind he finds himself in-- governing the state versus pleasing a base vote that’s very skeptical of him and frankly very skeptical of COVID in the first place.' Ohio is not the first state to offer vaccine incentives, but it was the first to go this big-- and politicians elsewhere took notice. DeWine said he's heard from 10 other states that wanted more information, although his office declined to identify them."
DeWine's political enemies-- the far right Trumpists of his party and pathetic and ineffective Ohio Democrats from a state party that died years ago-- insist "the campaign is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who is considering a run for governor, called it 'ridiculous' and said the money could be better spent helping residents and small businesses or fixing the state's unemployment system. 'Giving just $5 million to five people in the end is going to make five people happy and over 11 million people unhappy,' he said. Herb Asher, a professor emeritus at The Ohio State University, disagrees, saying the program will likely be well-received overall and enhance DeWine's reputation with rank-and-file Ohioans. 'It’s a gimmick, but it’s a good gimmick,' he said. DeWine's efforts to combat COVID-19 will be at the forefront of his reelection bid next year, and Niven said the governor's greatest challenge will be his party primary-- not the general election. At that point, he said, Vax-a-Million may serve as a reminder to voters that DeWine tried every tool he could think of to slow the virus' spread. 'For Ohioans as a whole, this fits one of his core strengths which is, he tried,' Niven said. 'No single person could solve the pandemic, but he tried to make it better.'"