Maryland to offer COVID vaccine lottery incentive with $2 million in cash prizes

Forty daily drawings for $40,000 each and a $400,000 Fourth of July jackpot. Get at least one jab and you’ve got a shot.

Maryland’s latest effort to encourage people to get vaccinated will shower cash — a total of $2 million — on top of protection against COVID-19 for those who roll up their sleeves. Any Maryland resident 18 or older who received a coronavirus vaccine shot in the state at any point will be entered automatically to win the prizes, which the Maryland Lottery will pay from its marketing and promotional budget.


“Get your shot for a shot to win,” Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday while announcing the VaxCash Promotion at a news conference outside the governor’s mansion in Annapolis. Hogan, wearing sunglasses in the late spring heat, was flanked by state Health Secretary Dennis Schrader, Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Director Gordon Medenica and a man dressed in a lotto ball costume.

Using vaccination records, the health department will assign numbers randomly to people who’ve been vaccinated in the state and the lottery will draw one winner a day, starting Tuesday and through July 3, for a $40,000 prize each. Winners will be picked using a random number generator.


A grand prize drawing of $400,000 for one person on July 4 will cap off the promotion.

The pool of eligible potential winners will be updated daily to include those who just got their first doses. Those already vaccinated, or those who run out and get jabbed by Monday, will be included in all 41 drawings, giving them the best odds at a prize — as well as a quicker path to protection against the deadly virus.

“You get the shot today, tomorrow you’ll be entered into the drawing. We’ll do it that fast,” Hogan said. “Get vaccinated even on July 3 and you should have a chance at the $400,000 on the Fourth of July.”

Nearly 3.3 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine in Maryland, and Medenica put the odds of winning any given drawing at loosely one in 3 million. Those odds will lengthen as the daily drawings continue, since more shots in arms means more contenders for a prize, particularly if the gambit is a runaway success and drives droves to get vaccinated.

But, as Hogan pointed out, the best way to sweeten your chances is to get vaccinated as soon as possible, since those who’ve had a jab before Tuesday will participate in all 41 drawings.

”If you’ve not been vaccinated yet, the sooner you do so, the sooner you get your shot, the more lottery drawings you will be eligible for,” Hogan said.

The Health Department will contact winners directly and won’t share names or any other information about people who have been vaccinated with the Maryland Lottery or other agencies, Medenica said. Lottery officials will get in touch to pay prizes only if the winner agrees to participate.

Winners will be allowed to remain anonymous, although state officials plan to encourage them to share their stories publicly in hopes of drumming up excitement around the vaccination promotion.


Medenica said the $2 million price tag will end up being a great deal for the Maryland Lottery, as well, given how much attention and media exposure he expects the campaign to attract.

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The effort follows the lead of Ohio, which made national headlines earlier this month when the state launched weekly lotteries with prizes that include $1 million and four-year scholarships to state universities. Both Kentucky and New York are giving away lottery tickets to certain people who get vaccinated while West Virginia is giving out savings bonds to certain people who get vaccinated.

Maryland earlier offered $100 to state employees who get vaccinated. Last week, Hogan highlighted an incentive partnership with Ledo Pizza, which is giving away pizzas to people who get their first vaccine dose in May or June.

“Promotions like this are just one other way we’re emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Hogan.

More than 44% of Maryland’s roughly 6 million residents have been fully vaccinated by completing two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna or by receiving Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot immunization, according to health department data Thursday. About 54% of the population has received at least one dose, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

The state has reported an average of 49,401 immunizations daily over the last week, as several indicators of the virus’ spread, including hospitalizations and the state’s testing positivity rate, declined.


“It’s clearer than ever that these vaccines are incredibly effective,” Hogan said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Christine Condon and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.