US woman wins $1m in lottery designed to boost take-up of Covid jabs

28 May 2021, 10:41

22-year-old Abbigail Bugenske is the first winner of Ohio's Vax-a-Million scheme
22-year-old Abbigail Bugenske is the first winner of Ohio's Vax-a-Million scheme. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

A 22-year-old woman has won a million dollars in a lottery in Ohio that was launched to boost take-up of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Abbigail Bugenske is the first winner in the Vax-a-Million scheme, which allows everyone who has received at least one vaccine dose to be entered into a lottery with a weekly prize draw for $1m of existing pandemic relief funds.

Ms Bugenske called the win a “whirlwind” during a news conference on Thursday, and said: “It absolutely has not processed yet.

“I am still digesting it — and I like to say that it feels like this is happening to a different person.

“I cannot believe it.”

The 22-year-old says she has no plans to quit her job as a mechanical engineer, and she intends to donate some of her winnings to charities.

The Vax-a-Million scheme is one of several plans introduced to tackle growing vaccine hesitancy in the US, which includes incentives such as insider access to NFL locker rooms.

A winner will be drawn weekly for five weeks.

Similar schemes have been announced in New York, Oregon, Colorado and Maryland.

A separate scheme in Ohio enters vaccinated under-18s into a draw to win one of five full four-year scholarships to any public university in Ohio, the first of which went to fourteen-year-old Joseph Costello.

Vaccine hesitancy has the potential to derail the success of vaccination programmes
Vaccine hesitancy has the potential to derail the success of vaccination programmes. Picture: Getty

The vaccine lottery was criticised by some, with Democratic politician Emilia Sykes saying: “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”

However, Ohio’s governor Mike DeWine said that the real waste was deaths from coronavirus when there is a vaccine available.

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So far, 36 percent of Ohio’s population have received both vaccinations.

However, recently vaccine uptake has started to fall.

With restrictions in Ohio due to lift in three weeks, these incentive schemes are a last push to get as many people vaccinated as possible.