Ohio Will Spend Coronavirus Relief Funds on $1 Million Dollar Lottery for the Vaccinated

It's less dumb than it sounds.


Five lucky Ohioans who get vaccinated could win $1 million each, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Wednesday as part of a plan to encourage vaccination.

"To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years of age or older on the day of the drawing," he said. "You must be an Ohio resident. And, you must be vaccinated before the drawing."

The state's "Vax-a-Million" drawings will be held on five consecutive Wednesdays, starting on May 26.

Some people will probably roll their eyes at the government wasting money on something like this, but the idea is less stupid than it sounds. Importantly, the money is already spent: The millions will come out of Ohio's federal coronavirus relief funds. There are many restrictions on how state and local officials can spend their American Rescue Plan money, and it's illegal to simply give the money back to the taxpayers.

Of all the ways to spend these dollars, a lottery that encourages vaccine holdouts to change their plans is probably one of the better ideas. Vaccination is a far more effective and practical COVID-19 mitigation strategy than continued masking, lockdowns, and social distancing. Schools, for instance, are getting $130 billion for the explicit purposes of improving ventilation, making class sizes smaller, and purchasing personal protective equipment. That money would be better spent on vaccination than cleaning efforts: While other mitigation strategies merely reduce COVID-19 spread, the vaccines effectively neuter the disease. Nothing else is nearly as important a priority.

Other provisions of the coronavirus relief package have little to do with the disease itself, and instead fund various welfare programs: housing, health care, public transit, etc. But the simplest way to stop the negative effects of the pandemic is to stop the disease itself through widespread vaccination. If the chance to win a million dollars encourages a sizable number of people who were on the fence to head to their local CVS, that's a fairly good outcome. Better that than many of the alternatives, given the money has to be spent on something.