Million dollar prize on offer in lottery as incentive to get Covid jab

FILE - In this Thursday, April 8, 2021, file photo, Kent State University student Regan Raeth, of Hudson, Ohio, looks at her vaccination bandage as she waits for 15 minutes after her shot in Kent, Ohio. On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the end of the state's mask mandate as new COVID-19 cases decrease and more Ohioans get vaccinated. DeWine said the mask mandate will end June 2 except for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. (AP Photo/Phil Long, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, April 8, 2021, file photo, Kent State University student Regan Raeth, of Hudson, Ohio, looks at her vaccination bandage as she waits for 15 minutes after her shot in Kent, Ohio. On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the end of the state's mask mandate as new COVID-19 cases decrease and more Ohioans get vaccinated. DeWine said the mask mandate will end June 2 except for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. (AP Photo/Phil Long, File)

(AP) - A US state governor is offering a million dollar (£711,000) prize in a last-ditch effort to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Ohio’s Mike DeWine said adults who have received at least one vaccine dose may enter a lottery that will provide a million dollar prize each Wednesday for five weeks.

The state will also provide five full four-year scholarships to an Ohio public university – including tuition, room-and-board, and books – to vaccinated Ohioans under 18.

Masks will no longer be mandatory in Ohio from June 2 and a variety of other coronavirus orders will also finish on that date.

The money for the incentives will come from existing federal pandemic relief dollars, Mr DeWine said, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings.

He added: “I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.'”

But he said the real waste was lives being lost to Covid-19 when the vaccine was readily available.

State Representative Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, questioned the use of federal funds.

She said: “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis”.

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More than 4.2 million Ohioans – about 36% of the population – had completed the vaccination process as of Tuesday.

But the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, down from figures above 80,000 in April. About 42% of Ohioans have received at least one dose.