Flanked by a Lotto-ball mascot, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan laid out the stakes:
Forty daily drawings for $40,000 each and a $400,000 Fourth of July jackpot, he said. Get one coronavirus vaccine shot and you’ve got a chance for a share of the cash.
As the Republican governor put it last week, “Get your shot for a shot to win.”
Here’s what you need to know about Maryland’s latest vaccination incentive, the VaxCash Promotion:
Am I eligible? How do I sign up?
If you’re a Maryland resident 18 and older and you’ve received one vaccine dose, you’re entered into the pool for a chance to win. That includes those already vaccinated and anyone who gets a shot before July 4.
However, even if you’re a Maryland resident, you’re not eligible if you were vaccinated in another state or at a federal facility.
The Maryland Department of Health keeps vaccination records in its ImmuNet system. To check those records, go to https://md.myir.net/rorl?next=/.
What are my chances for $40,000? How about the grand prize?
The Baltimore Sun checked in with professor Bimal Sinha, founder of the graduate statistics program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He and his student, Neha Agarwala, crunched the numbers.
Assuming that roughly 3.3 million people have received at least one vaccine dose by Tuesday, the first day of the contest, and that the state adds about 20,000 administrations of first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines and Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot immunization every day (its current seven-day daily average) the odds look something like this:
Day 1 (May 25): 1 in 100,000
Day 10: 8 in 1 million
Day 20: 5.4 in 1 million
Day 40 (Fourth of July): 2.5 in 10 million
The last figure represents everyone’s chance for the Independence Day jackpot.
The starting odds are likely a little better, considering anyone under 18 cannot win even if they’ve been vaccinated, Sinha said. While youths 12 to 17 years old have been getting vaccinated, the health department reports vaccinations by nine-year age brackets, meaning it’s difficult to disentangle the number of those ages 12-17 who’ve been vaccinated.
But your chances to win could also worsen quickly if people get vaccinated in droves.
How will I find out if I win?
From its vaccination records, the health department will assign a random number to the name of everyone who’s vaccinated and over 18.
The list of numbers will go to the Maryland Lottery, which will draw daily winners using the same random number generators they use for various promotions.
If you win, the health department is whom you’ll hear from first, according to the lottery. Winners will get a “$2 Million VaxCash Promotion Authorization Form” allowing the health department to release information to the lottery. If you want the money, you have to fill out the form. The lottery said it will follow up with the claims process.
But that doesn’t mean your name will be publicized. Only if you want it to.
“The winners of this promotion will be permitted to remain anonymous,” a digital information pamphlet from the lottery reads. “For winners from larger towns with populations of 60,000 or more, the location of the winners’ hometowns will be published. For winners from smaller towns, only the winners’ home counties will be published.”
Have other states tried this?
Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Oregon are among states that have instituted or plan to put in place variations of a vaccine lottery system.
Ohio’s lottery is an opt-in program, and millions of adults and thousands of teens have registered, said Daniel Tierney, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. (He declined to offer precise numbers, for security reasons.) Any vaccinated Ohioan is eligible, regardless of when they got their shots.
On Friday, Oregon joined the trend with the state’s lottery commission giving the go-ahead for a one-time, $1 million lottery for those vaccinated next month.
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Anyone who gets vaccinated at a state-run clinic in New York from May 24 to May 28 will get a scratch-off ticket that normally costs $20, and has prizes up to $5 million. Kentucky has been giving away 225,000 coupons for tickets to its Cash Ball 225 lottery to residents at Kroger and Walmart vaccine clinics. The lottery tickets usually cost $1 and the top prize is $225,000.
Is it working in those places?
At least in Ohio, early evidence suggests their program, Vax-a-Million, has incentivized people to get immunized.
First announced on May 12, Vax-a-Million will have the first of five weekly $1 million drawings on Monday for vaccinated Ohioans ages 18 and older. Kids ages 12 to 17 who are vaccinated can enter a separate lottery for one of five all-expenses-paid educations at a state university.
Ohio saw a 50% week-over-week increase after the Vax-a-Million announcement. Though some of that, admittedly, is due to the fact that the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12- to 15-year-olds in that period. When those newly eligible youths are removed from the numbers, Ohio saw a 28% increase.
The potential of winning a college scholarship appears to be influencing teens and their parents, at least anecdotally, Tierney said.
“There’s been a buzz amongst that age group for the scholarship opportunity,” he said. The week before the announcement had seen a 25% decline.
Baltimore Sun reporter Bryn Stole contributed to this article.