NC to give out $1 million each to 4 vaccinated residents

RALEIGH, N.C. — A new lottery in North Carolina will give the more than 4.2 million vaccinated residents across the state a different kind of shot: a chance to win $1 million.

As part of a program called Your Shot at $1 Million, North Carolina will launch cash drawings for residents who get or have gotten their COVID-19 vaccine in the state.

Here’s how it will work:

  • From June 23 until Aug. 4, four people will each win $1 million
  • Four kids ages 12-17 will win $125,000 scholarships
  • Anyone getting their first shot from June 10 on will be entered twice
  • June 23 will be the first drawing

Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Thursday that those who have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and are 18 years of age or older will be automatically entered in the lottery, while residents between the ages of 12 and 17 will be eligible for a $125,000 scholarship to the college of their choice.

There will be four drawings, with $1 million and a $125,000 scholarship each being given out on June 23, July 7, July 21 and Aug. 4.

Those who get their first vaccines on Thursday or later will be entered twice to win in each of the four contests. Winners must be named publicly to receive the money. The governor said the prizes are subject to state and federal taxes.

Federal coronavirus relief funds will be used to pay for the program.

“Regardless of who wins, there’s no way to lose,” he said. “A chance at a million dollars or a college scholarship is pretty good motivation. But even if your name isn’t drawn, the worst you’ll do is get strong protection from a deadly virus.”

The drawings aim to boost COVID-19 vaccine participation as North Carolina is among the states with the lowest rate of people inoculated per capita. With a surplus of more than 2.3 million vaccines, health officials are no longer accepting them from the federal government.

Since the start of the vaccine rollout, North Carolina has refused to accept nearly 2.4 million shots from its weekly federal allocation. More than 1.2 million doses were donated back to federal authorities as of Friday.

Though there is still time for more data to come in, state data shows fewer than 50,000 North Carolinians went in for their first COVID-19 shot last week. This represents the lowest participation levels to date and a nearly 88% drop in demand compared to the week of March 8, when the state reached a high of more than 400,000 people seeking the first dose.

The first drawing will be held on June 23 and the drawings will occur every other week until the last one on Aug. 4. The drawings will take place every other Wednesday.

For extra incentive, Cooper said anyone getting their first shot from June 10 going forward will be entered twice for each drawing.

“Getting that first shot now will double your chances each time a name is picked, “ he said. “Of course, the best reason to get vaccinated is to protect yourself and your family. Now that most people aren’t wearing masks in most places, unvaccinated people can be a real danger to each other.”

Cooper said the winners will not be permitted to stay anonymous. The winners will also be subject to federal and local taxes.

Cooper said state health officials have monitored the success of cash drawings in other states and believe it will help get more North Carolinians vaccinated.

“The more North Carolinians who get vaccinated, the sooner we can put this pandemic fully behind us,” Cooper said.

Chester Cone said it’s a nice perk and that he hopes he wins, but he’s getting the shot with others in mind.

“I am getting ready to have a family and stuff like that, so I need to make sure I am safe,” he said.

But not everyone is sold on the million dollar payouts.

“Yeah, I think it is absolutely crazy,” said Sonya Connor.

For months, Cooper has expressed an openness to the possibility of further incentives. The state had previously relied almost entirely on an information campaign highlighting the safety and efficacy of the three COVID-19 vaccines regulators have approved. As demand stalled and the number of newly vaccinated residents declined, Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services explored what prizes other states have offered.

The rate of COVID vaccinations continues to slow down across the country -- and North Carolina is seeing that too.

Currently, 44% of people in the state have received at least one dose while 40% are fully vaccinated. There are about 2.5 million North Carolinians who are not vaccinated.

Only 13 states have reached President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of U.S. adults with at least one dose by July 4.

The lagging states are primarily in the Northwest and Southeast.

To get those numbers up, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services launched a pilot program in May offering $25 cash cards to people getting shots across four counties, including Rowan and Mecklenburg.

On Thursday, Cooper said the program was working well in Rowan County, which has had one of the lower vaccination rates in the state.

The governor said more counties will be added to the program in coming weeks and he hopes the incentives will encourage North Carolinians to get the shot.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, said the $4.5 million in total lottery prizes will not replace the cash card program and that the $25 card offerings will soon be expanded.

“In the coming weeks, (we) hope to scale up both the summer cash card and to move forward with these $1 million drawings,” Cohen said.

Most adults in the state, including nearly 4 in 5 people who are at least 65 years old, are fully vaccinated. Those under 50 have shown stronger reluctance to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Residents who are at least 12 years old are currently eligible for a shot.

Last week, Cooper toured Charlotte’s StarMed vaccination facility, which helps run the vaccination site at Bojangles Coliseum. He mentioned then that he was looking at how other states are offering big cash prizes, college scholarships or lottery tickets.

“We’re continuing to look at ways to incentivize people to get vaccinations and we’ve looked very closely at the drawings and other promotions that other states have done and have looked at their results, and hopefully we will be following some of their lead soon,” Cooper said.

Cooper visited Knox Middle School in Salisbury Thursday morning before he announced the new incentives.

(WATCH BELOW: Mecklenburg, Rowan counties offering $25 cash cards for COVID vaccinations)