A much-anticipated incentive to spur more COVID-19 vaccinations became official Thursday when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a $1 million jackpot and other prizes for those who roll up their sleeves.
People who have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine can register for the “Shot at a Million” program beginning at noon on Monday, June 21. People can register online at shotatamillion.com or by calling 1-877-356-1511.
The winner of the $1 million prize will be announced in August.
“This is a win-win for everyone, and it’s also a win for our state,” Edwards said.
The mood in the press conference was different than most have been over the past year, with a more festive atmosphere. The briefing began with the Mahogany Brass Band playing “You Are My Sunshine” as Edwards and others walked into a room decorated with multi-color balloons, including some in the shape of money signs.
Edwards didn’t waste any time getting to the point of the press conference and quickly unveiled a giant check with help from First Lady Donna Edwards.
“I can tell you the good times are beginning to roll again,” Edwards said.
Along with the $1 million check, the state will offer a total of 14 monetary awards — including cash giveaways and scholarships — through the month of July.
Louisianans who have taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and are 18 or older may enter to win one of four $100,000 prizes and the grand prize of $1 million. Louisianans who have taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and are between the ages of 12 and 17 may enter to win one of nine $100,000 scholarships.
Louisianans are eligible if they have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the drawing date, regardless of when they were vaccinated. However, people must register to have a chance at any of the prizes.
All told, the state will give away $2.3 million in cash and scholarships “for people who decide to go sleeves up against COVID,” Edwards said. The funding will come from federal COVID outreach dollars.
“Even though it’s called a lottery, there is nothing to lose,” Edwards said. “There’s only gain associated with ‘Shot at a Million.’”
The state will have four weekly drawings for one $100,000 scholarship and one $100,000 cash prize. The final grand prize drawing on Aug. 4 will award a $1 million cash award and five $100,000 scholarships.
The Louisiana Lottery Corporation is assisting the Louisiana Department of Health with structuring the reward program and conducting the randomized drawings, with LDH and the Legislative Auditor present.
LDH will not share a person’s vaccine status or health information with the Louisiana Lottery Corporation, and will confirm the vaccination status of the winner after de-identifying the person’s information.
State leaders announced vaccination incentives earlier this month, the first real attempt to award those who have been inoculated. Those freebies included entrance to a state park or historic site through July as well as a complimentary drink at certain restaurants and bars through June.
The perks are part of the Bring Back Louisiana Summer initiative, the state’s grassroots effort to encourage more vaccinations.
Officials are hoping the extra incentives will spur more vaccinations, which continue to lag in Louisiana behind the national average.
Nationally, Louisiana still ranks near the bottom of vaccinations, with around 33.7 percent of the state being fully vaccinated. The national average is 44.5 percent, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
About 37.2 percent of the state’s population – roughly 1.7 million residents – has initiated a vaccine series, also lower than the national rate of 53 percent, CDC figures show.
The state has administered more than 3.14 million vaccine doses, with over 1.55 million residents being fully vaccinated, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
During Thursday’s press conference, Edwards said he and other state leaders have discussed a lottery program for several weeks but wanted to see how similar programs played out in other states.
The results, Edwards said, “impressed” him and other leaders, especially in Ohio, where media reports said the Buckeye State had a significant increase in vaccinations after announcing a lottery program, especially among the younger demographic.
“I for one, like many of us, would love for Louisiana to see that kind of increase,” Edwards said.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer, called the lottery program “bold and creative” at a “pivotal point” in the pandemic. Despite the state’s daily COVID-19 figures improving, Kanter noted that the state has averaged 45-65 weekly deaths from the virus over the last few months.
He also pointed to the circulation of the COVID variants — especially the “fast-spreading” Delta variant — as reasons for “further urgency to our vaccine campaign.”
“When lives are on the line, you want to try everything,” Kanter said. “That’s the bottom line.”
There are around 1,500 locations statewide where residents can receive one of three COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to regular clinics.
For information on where to get a COVID-19 vaccine, visit covidvaccine.la.gov. People can also call the state’s vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774. Hours of operation for the hotline are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
The hotline can help residents schedule vaccine appointments, find vaccine providers in their area and connect people with medical professionals who can answer vaccine-related questions.