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Ohio Will Offer $1 Million Weekly Lotteries And Full-Ride Scholarships For People Who Get A COVID Vaccine

The state will select one student and one adult at random for five consecutive weeks, starting later this month.

Last updated on May 12, 2021, at 7:51 p.m. ET

Posted on May 12, 2021, at 7:33 p.m. ET

Pete Bannan / MediaNews Group / Daily Times via Getty Images

A doctor gives a high school student the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on May 3.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday announced that the state will award five random adults who get COVID-19 vaccine shots $1 million each. Five young people who get vaccinated will get full four-year scholarships to public colleges and universities, he added.

"Getting [our 12- to 17-year-olds] vaccinated is so important that we will have a separate incentive for them," DeWine said during a public address.

In order to become eligible for the prizes, children ages 12 to 17 can register through an online portal as of May 18 to enter the drawing. Winners will be selected at random every Wednesday for five consecutive weeks, starting May 26. The scholarships will cover tuition and room and board.

Five Ohioans ages 18 and older will be eligible for $1 million through a similar lottery program. Winners must have received at least one dose of a vaccine by the date of the drawing.

"The number of Ohioans who get the vaccine will determine, frankly, what our future looks like," the governor said. "Everyone has a stake in more Ohioans getting vaccinated."

Businesses and state and local governments across the country are incentivizing people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by offering free beer, cash, and sports tickets. Earlier on Wednesday, a CDC vaccine advisory panel voted overwhelmingly to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccine for people ages 12 to 15.

The governor's office said in a statement that the drawings will be administered by the Ohio Department of Health, with assistance from the state's lottery commission, and funded through coronavirus relief money.

The reaction online was mixed. Some quickly criticized the decision to spend the relief funds on a small number of people instead of putting it toward the vaccine rollout or supporting small businesses and others who have suffered financially during the pandemic.

@GovMikeDeWine So there’s an expendable $5,000,000 from the Covid Relief Fund and you thought (while people are still out of work and countless businesses are permanently closed) the best idea was to give it away to five people?

Twitter: @JahD1191

America offers donuts, beer, and now lottery tickets to incentivize the COVID19 vaccine whereas people are dying across the world in places with NO access to the vaccine. Talk about privilege

Twitter: @dch1309

"So, instead of using federal relief dollars to bring vaccines to people where they are & help actual trusted messengers address vaccine hesitancy, we're going to spend millions on an unproven & untested lottery incentive program?" tweeted Ohio state Rep. Allison Russo. "This sounds like someone's bad reality tv pitch."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.