State officials on Tuesday said residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will have the chance to win $1 million starting next month in a special Lottery sweepstakes that all Massachusetts residents aged 18 and up can enter, provided they’ve received either two Pfizer or Moderna shots or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab.
Governor Charlie Baker’s office unveiled the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway program aimed at convincing as many people as possible to get the shots. The number of state residents fully vaccinated rose to 4,003,540 on Tuesday, state public health officials reported.
Massachusetts joins California, Ohio, and other states that have turned to big-money lotteries and other incentives to convince as many people as possible to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
“The Commonwealth leads the nation in vaccinating our residents,” Baker said in a statement. “Our goal remains ensuring everyone that wants a vaccine has access to one . . . The VaxMillions Giveaway is one of the many ways our administration is encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
Baker said he spoke with representatives of other states that have seen increases in its vaccinated population after implementing a lottery program.
“Other states that have launched similar programs like Ohio, and I had a long conversation with Governor [Mike] DeWine, did see a significant increase in vaccine signups after they put this program in place,” Baker told reporters during the briefing.
Starting July 1, Massachusetts residents who are fully vaccinated may sign up online on the state’s website, mass.gov, to register for the lottery. A call center will be set up for residents who don’t have Internet access, the statement said.
Under terms of the program, fully vaccinated residents 18 and older will have the opportunity to enter to win one of five $1 million cash prizes. Fully vaccinated residents between ages 12 and 17 can enter for the chance to win one of five $300,000 scholarship grants, the statement said.
Drawings will be held once a week for five weeks beginning the week of Monday, July 26, and continuing through the week ending Friday, Aug. 27, the statement said.
The Massachusetts State Lottery will run the program, state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg said in the statement.
“The Lottery has decades of experience and know-how to hold drawings with the utmost integrity and our team is excited to fulfill an essential role in this initiative,” Goldberg said.
Her words were echoed by state Lottery executive director Michael Sweeney.
“We greatly appreciate the trust that Governor Baker, his administration, and Treasurer Goldberg have in the Mass Lottery to assist in the implementation of this important public health initiative,” Sweeney said in the statement. “The Mass Lottery has worked diligently to build a reputation as one of the most successful lotteries in the country and it is an honor to be entrusted with this responsibility.”
The officials also plugged the VaxMillions bonanza during a State House briefing Tuesday.
Marylou Sudders, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, said that participants will have to provide proof of vaccination when registering for the lottery.
“When you put the information in, you will indicate that we can contact you for verification purposes, including not just your CDC card but other information so that we can validate that you received your two doses in Massachusetts,” she said.
Goldberg stressed during the news conference that unvaccinated residents won’t be eligible for the weekly jackpots.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you can’t play,” Goldberg said.
The VaxMillions Giveaway was announced on the day that Baker officially lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency that started over a year ago. He thanked Massachusetts residents for their cooperation during a long hard year of uncertainty.
“You’ve buckled down,” Baker said, directly addressing the public. “You’ve followed the public health guidance and the science. And you’ve made tremendously difficult decisions and sacrifices to get us to this point. We’ve made tremendous progress so far, but the best tool we have to drive down and out COVID once and for all is for more people to continue to get vaccinated here in Massachusetts.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.