bakervax

Gov. Charlie Baker announces the “VaxMillions” campaign Tuesday in the Statehouse. His administration will partner with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and the Massachusetts Lottery to launch the giveaway in July, offering $1 million prizes to five adults 18 and older and $300,000 college scholarships to five adolescents ages 12 to 17 who have been vaccinated fully against COVID-19.

BOSTON — For five Massachusetts adults and five Bay State adolescents, the COVID-19 vaccine will prove to be an extra lucky shot.

The Baker administration will partner with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and the Massachusetts Lottery to launch a "VaxMillions" giveaway in July, offering $1 million prizes to five adults 18 and older and $300,000 college scholarships to five adolescents ages 12 to 17.

With the rate of new vaccinations slowing in recent weeks, officials unveiled the lottery Tuesday — it was the same day that Massachusetts surpassed 4 million residents fully vaccinated — as the latest step in an effort to reach those who still have not been immunized against the highly infectious virus.

Today, Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders will join Treasurer Deb Goldberg to make an announcement about a new initiative to increase vaccination rates in the Commonwealth.

"We're hopeful that this giveaway will give another reason and opportunity for people to choose to get vaccinated here in the commonwealth over the next couple of months," Gov. Charlie Baker said.

States that implemented similar lotteries experienced "a significant increase in vaccine sign-ups after they put this program in place," he said.

All Massachusetts residents who fully are vaccinated are eligible to enter the drawing, including those who have been immunized for months, so long as they received their doses in the Bay State. Winners will have their names publicly disclosed.

Registration for the contest will start July 1 and remain open through Aug. 20. Residents will need to submit their personal information online or via a soon-to-launch call center, and state officials will conduct one drawing for each prize per week from July 26 to Aug. 27.

Anyone who signs up in the process consents to the Department of Public Health accessing their vaccination records to verify they are fully vaccinated, and those selected as winners might be asked to provide their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-issued record cards or other information.

"If you're not vaccinated, you can't play," said Goldberg, who oversees the Lottery.

The Massachusetts State Lottery Commission will convene a special meeting at 11 a.m. Thursday to vote on providing "technical and program support" for the VaxMillions giveaway. Massachusetts will pay for the lottery program from the billions in federal aid it received in the American Rescue Plan Act, Baker said.

Several other states, such as Ohio and California, have offered lottery prizes to encourage vaccination in recent months. Baker said he spoke about the program with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who told him the effort "created a lot more visibility around getting vaccinated generally" for a sustained period of several weeks.

"They did start to see pickup rates among some of the populations they'd had a really hard time reaching, especially young people, mostly men between the ages of about 20 and 40, which is a tough population for us, as well as it was for them," Baker said.

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"They also saw a lot of parents who are interested in this scholarship program, who use this as a mechanism to encourage their kids who may have not wanted to get vaccinated to get vaccinated."

Adults who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be eligible for the $1 million prizes. Adolescents ages 12 to 17 must have received both of their Pfizer doses — it's the only vaccine currently authorized for anyone younger than 18 — to qualify.

Scholarship winners will receive a $300,000 grant via a 529 College Savings Plan that the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority manages, which Baker's office said "can be applied to cover tuition, room and board, and related expenses at any college, university, or technical or trade school or other postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Education."

Any winners with a qualifying disability could choose to receive an equivalent award to a special needs trust or federally qualified ABLE account.

As of Tuesday, more than 4 million Massachusetts residents now are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Bay State is home to about 7 million people, and those younger than 12 remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 80 percent of the state's adults have received at least one dose, Baker said.

With nearly 1 in 5 Bay State adults not yet immunized, the pace of vaccinations has dropped considerably. On May 1, the seven-day average of daily vaccine doses administered stood at 76,738, according to a News Service analysis of state data. By June 8, it had fallen to about 28,315.

The Baker administration, which lifted the state of emergency Tuesday, pivoted in recent weeks from a mass-vaccination campaign to a more targeted approach featuring incentives and expanded local outreach. Final doses at Gillette Stadium were administered Monday, becoming the first of the state's seven mass-vaccination sites to go offline.

Sizable gaps remain in vaccination rates by race and ethnicity. Through June 8, about 62.3 percent of the state's white population and 64.5 percent of the state's Asian population had received at least one dose, compared with 46.9 percent of Black residents and 44.9 percent of Hispanic residents, according to the DPH.

Officials said the administration will continue contracts in 20 hard-hit communities with sizable populations of color through the summer for additional vaccine outreach and canvassing efforts.

"We are really working very, very locally, sort of referred to as hyper-focused on those communities where we need to continue to address vaccine hesitancy and bring vaccines as close as possible," said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. "What was the homebound program is now the in-home program, so, we will literally bring vaccines to your home, as well as the temporary pop-up sites and the like."

The Baker administration long has targeted 4.1 million full vaccinations as its baseline goal. Asked Tuesday if he has a new goal in mind, Baker replied, "More. The new number is more."

Highly infectious variants of COVID-19 continue to spread, which Baker said "make this the kind of thing where we should do everything we can to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can and not stop."

"From our point of view, we shouldn't stop," he said. "We should just do everything we possibly can."