The million dollar question
Everything you wanted to know about Colorado's vaccine prize giveaways

The million dollar question

Gov. Polis announced Tues., May 25, that Colorado will award $1 million each week beginning June 4 to five ­lucky COVID-19 vaccine recipients./ Photo by John Daley/CPR News

Chuck Murphy / Colorado Public Radio - 05/27/2021

Colorado will award $1 million each week in June to five lucky COVID-19 vaccine recipients, part of a growing number of states trying to reverse declining vaccine interest through giveaways.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the drawing Tuesday after hinting last week that something like this might be coming.

The money will come out of the marketing and promotion budget for the vaccine program, and Polis said he believes it will be a better use of the $5 million.

“We feel it will have a bigger impact on driving vaccination than if we were running TV ads saying to get vaccinated,” Polis said. “And best of all, the benefit goes to five lucky Coloradans who did the right thing and protected themselves.”

Oregon, New York and Maryland have followed Ohio’s lead in setting up drawings like the one Colorado is now planning. In Ohio, the day before their $1 million drawing was announced, 13,928 people were vaccinated. The day after, 32,754 lined up for a shot. The daily number of those vaccinated there has stayed elevated but remained far below the March and April peaks when more than 100,000 per day were seeking vaccines.

Colorado has experienced a similar decline in vaccine interest, which Polis is hoping to goose with the drawings.

“We have seen this kind of drawing work in states like Ohio, where they saw a surge in interest,” Polis said. “And we expect that we'll see the same thing here. All you have to do to enter is get vaccinated.”

Following are answers to a few FAQs on the program:

• Where is the money coming from? It will come from the advertising and marketing funds given to the state by the federal government’s CARES Act, designed to encourage vaccination against COVID-19.

• How many drawings are there? There will be five weekly drawings on Fridays, starting June 4. Everyone 18 and older who has already been vaccinated, or gets vaccinated at least by the Tuesday before the drawing will be automatically entered.

• Will the names of the winners be made public? Yes. The point is to generate interest in vaccines by showing off the people who got vaccinated and then won $1 million. To get the money, you have to agree to the release of your identity – but not anything else beyond the fact that you got vaccinated.

• How will you know if you win? When you make an appointment to get vaccinated, or when you enroll at a walk-in site, some contact information and demographic information about you is collected. That will be used to contact you if you win the $1 million.

• How are you entered? If you've already been vaccinated, you will be automatically entered via the Colorado Immunization Information System. If you were part of a vaccine trial and got the vaccine, you will also be entered.

• How is the state protecting privacy? The Colorado Lottery will assign a random number to your name, and one of those numbers will be drawn each week. Only the person whose number is drawn will be contacted and will have a chance to decline the $1 million or agree to take it and have their identity revealed.

• Were people entered into a lottery against religious objections? Polis went to some lengths to point out this is a drawing, not a lottery, and no one had to pay or put up anything in order to participate. And no one will be forced to take the money.

• Can you opt out of the drawing when you get your vaccine? No – if you get the vaccine, you are entered for the drawing. But, if you win, you can turn it down. 

• What are the odds of winning? Polis estimated about 1 in 500,000 

• Am I eligible if I only received one dose? One dose is enough to be entered. Getting the second dose will provide you full protection from COVID-19, but it will not get you a second entry.

• What if I got vaccinated through my employer – not at a clinic, pharmacy or medical facility? Your information still should have been entered into the state vaccine database, and you are therefore eligible.

• What if I haven’t been vaccinated yet? You have until midnight on the Tuesday of each week to get at least one dose of vaccine in order to be eligible for that Friday’s drawing.  

• How does the scholarship contest work? The scholarship prize will be for those Coloradans ages 12 to 17 who are eligible for vaccine, but not for the $1 million drawing. More details will be announced later this week by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. 

• If I got vaccinated through the Indian Health Services, am I eligible? Yes, as long as you are a Colorado resident and were vaccinated in the state. The IHS reports their information through the state database.

• What if I was vaccinated at a CVS, Walgreens or other pharmacy? You are in.

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