JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than 275,000 Missourians have thrown their name in to win $10,000 for getting the vaccine just one week after the program was unveiled.
Since the start of July, more than 22 counties have been under a “Hotspot Advisory” for increasing COVID cases. State leaders are trying to reduce rising cases by offer 900 prizes worth millions of dollars to incentivize getting the vaccine.
The program is called the Missouri Vaccine Incentive Program (VIP), and it opened last Wednesday. The state health departments say since the program was unveiled, the number of vaccines given in a day has doubled.
“Friday of last week we saw the largest number of vaccinations at about 16,000 then we had in any day since the month of May,” Acting Director for the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Robert Knodell said Wednesday. “We’re seeing vaccinators order more vaccine supply from the state than we had previously when we really saw a decline in vaccine ordering.”
Knodell said the state had reached a point where only 7,000 Missourians were getting vaccinated a day. According to the State’s website, 41% of Missouri’s population is fully vaccinated while 47.5% has started vaccination.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Knodell said. “We want people to make the right choice and we believe that right choice is to get vaccinated.”
The state’s COVID vaccination website also saw half a million visits within the first 24 hours the program was open.
“The Delta Variant is a very real challenge for our communities across the state and for our entire state and our nation,” Knodell said. “This is a good time for people to take a second look at getting vaccinated.”
Knodell said right now, the younger population has the lowest vaccination rate.
“We don’t want young people to be spreading this virus, but they need information, their parents need information, we are a parental consent state,” Knodell said. “We’re getting pretty close to a new school year, and I think everyone in Missouri wants our schools to have a good year to be able to learn in person and be able to do so most importantly, safely.”
Less than 22% of Missourians ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated. Less than 30% have started the vaccination process. That age group is one of three categories able to win $10,000 but it comes in the form of education savings accounts.
Entries will be divided into three categories:
Red: Missourians age 18 and up receiving at least one dose of vaccine after July 21.
White: Missourians age 18 and up receiving at least one dose of vaccine before July 21.
Blue: Missourians ages 12 to 17 receiving at least one dose of vaccine at any time.
A winner must meet all of the following eligibility requirements:
Must be a living citizen of the United States and a permanent resident of the State of Missouri.
Must be age 12 or older.
Must have received at least the first COVID-19 vaccination if receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose if receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, before the drawing date (records will be verified).
Eighty winners will be randomly selected during each drawing from the Red and White categories. There will be ten winners from each congressional district.
During each drawing, 20 adolescents from the Blue category will be randomly selected to receive a $10,000 education savings account through the Missouri State Treasurer’s MOST 529 program.
Last week, Knodell took to Twitter saying, “All this rhetoric against COVID vaccines is a bunch of baloney. You don’t have to trust me….consult your family physician or pharmacist.”
“I looked at a lot of the comments on social media when the vaccine incentive program was announced,” Knodell said. “And you see a lot of information that is simply not true, not accurate, false information that has been long debunked out there, and my biggest concern and what keeps me awake at night is that there may be a well-intentioned Missourian trying to make the best decision they can on how to protect their families and what is important and looking out for their own health and anybody that takes that information as fact.”
Besides the state offering money, local health agencies will be able to offer $25 gift cards for each person who is vaccinated. This program alone is expected to cost $11 million with the money coming through immunization grant funds from the CDC. Those agencies are required to submit their plan to the state by Aug. 15.
Knodell’s message, get a vaccine, not only to protect yourself but for those around you.
“If we have to deliver one shot to one person out there because they don’t have transportation or they work odd hours that don’t permit them to go to a pharmacy or a clinic, we’re going to fight this battle one vaccine at a time,” Knodell said.
Missourians who are vaccinated are not automatically enrolled in the program. Knodell said they wanted to make sure the state had consent to access their records.
“We are at a point where we’ve had over 2 million Missourians who have already been vaccinated and so the question is with a prize program, do they want us accessing their vaccination records to check and see if they should enter this program,” Knodell said. “We want Missourians to know that their friends, their neighbors, people that live in their cities and counties are winning this competition, but we would not feel right about communicating that if individuals didn’t consent.”
It’s a one-time registration, with hundreds of chances to win.
The total cost of the program is $20 million with nearly half of that coming from the state’s CARES Act funds. The first drawing is set for Aug. 13 and drawings will occur every two weeks with the final drawing scheduled for Oct. 8. To enter your name for a chance to win, visit www.mostopscovid.com/winThose without the ability to enter the sweepstakes online can get assistance by calling the COVID-19 hotline Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. at 877-435-8411.