Ohio University has announced a series of scholarship and prize giveaways for vaccinated students, while the state prepares to revive its multi-million-dollar lottery scheme to boost vaccination coverage.
Fully vaccinated students who sign up for the college’s “vaccination pathway” programme, which exempts them from having to take a weekly asymptomatic Covid-19 test, will be eligible for weekly prize drawings between now and mid-August, Ohio University said in a statement on Wednesday.
Two weekly winners for the next four weeks can choose between $500 scholarships or other prizes such as an on-campus autumn photo shoot, a VIP ride in the homecoming parade or “dinner with a soon-to-be-announced Ohio University celebrity.” (The university’s alumni include Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, MacGyver star Richard Dean Anderson, and businessman Robert Walter, who had a role in the creation of Cardinal Health.)
The grand prize, to be drawn in the fifth week, is a scholarship for the autumn 2021 semester.
The announcement comes a day after Ohio governor Mike DeWine said the state planned to announce a new vaccination incentive programme within the next week.
DeWine provided few details during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, but hinted the lottery could include smaller amounts of money to give more people a chance at winning, local media reported.
While some states had begun to offer beer or tickets to the baseball, Ohio in May became the first to announce a vaccine lottery offering million-dollar cash prizes and full college scholarships to previously or newly vaccinated residents. California and New Mexico were among those to follow Ohio’s lead. West Virginia did, too, but also pledged guns as prizes.
The Republican governor said on Tuesday he was concerned about the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 and parts of Ohio that have low vaccination rates. The highly-transmissible strain of the virus, which was first identified in India, is behind an increase in cases in communities in states like Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi that have low vaccination coverage.
When DeWine announced the first lottery in mid-May, Ohio had vaccinated about 37 per cent of its population, which compared to the national average of about 35 per cent. Two months later, 45.6 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated, which is 2.6 percentage points below coverage for the US overall and puts Ohio in the bottom half of states.