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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a plan to spend $1.86 million in COVID-19 relief funds on cash prizes as incentives for getting vaccinated.

Got your shot? You could be on track to win some cash.

Oregon officials announced Friday a plan to incentivize residents getting their COVID-19 vaccinations and ramp up the state’s slowing vaccination rate: Offer money to those who’ve gotten their shots.

“In this final push to reach every Oregonian with a vaccine, and to meet our goal of at least 70% of adults vaccinated so we can fully reopen our economy we will need to pull on every lever we have,” said Gov. Kate Brown in an unusually jovial press conference.

“So if you’ve been waiting to get a vaccine, or you just haven’t gotten around to it yet, we’re going to give you an extra incentive. How about a chance to win a million dollars?”

Under the plan, the state will pick 42 winners: One statewide winner will receive $1 million, one person in each county will receive $10,000 and five 12- to 17-year-olds will receive $100,000 Oregon College Savings Plan scholarships.

The Oregon Lottery and Oregon Health Authority will pick winners on June 28, according to the agencies.

“We can do this. I’m encouraging every eligible Oregonians to take your shot. Go get vaccinated: it can save your life — and just maybe make you a millionaire,” Brown said.

Oregon’s move to incentivize vaccinations comes after states across the country have announced similar plans. New York, for example, announced it would give lottery scratch tickets to anyone getting a shot at certain sites, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a plan to pick five $1 million winners.

According to OHA, any Oregon resident who’s received their shot will have their name entered in the drawing — though anyone who’s been vaccinated through a federal site aren’t in the state’s database, and state officials will announce a plan to collect that information another way.

The agency also said anyone can opt out of the program, and that no personal information will get shared with the Oregon Lottery in the process.

Kids — who are now eligible to receive the vaccine at age 12 and older — can win big through the drawings too, with five scholarships up for grabs.

Winners of that drawing will receive $100,000 deposited in their name in the state’s 529 college savings plan. Those funds can be used at any institution which accepts federal financial aid, including universities, community colleges and trade schools.

“This is a win-win: Get vaccinated now to protect yourself and others, and get the chance to fund your future through a scholarship that can be used for higher education and job training,” said State Treasurer Tobias Read.

State lottery and health officials brought in a Stanford University expert to help them design the drawing to convince Oregonians to get their shots. Ashby Monk studies decision-making processes and “gamifying” positive behaviors at the university.

“Incentives that can change your life, with big financial rewards, really do inspire large groups of people to take positive action,” Monk said, enthusiastically citing academic articles.

Monk said that research shows providing incentives for positive behavior with financial prizes can increase how often people do those behaviors. He said he hopes the state’s vaccine lottery program could increase vaccination rates in the state by 20 to 40%.

“If we can get 20 to 40% of the people in Oregon to choose to get vaccinated among the hesitant, or the population today not prioritizing getting the vaccine, I think we could save many lives. Many lives!” Monk said.

Friday’s announcement came amid a continued slow decline in the state’s COVID-19 case rate.

The latest surge of the virus statewide is waning, said OHA Director Patrick Allen. The state’s average daily cases have declined over the past two weeks, and the state’s 7-day average in cases was 40% lower Friday than it was on May 1, Allen said.

“This turning point is likely due to multiple factors: extreme-risk protections pumped the brakes in counties with the highest infection levels, warmer weather invited more people outside, most Oregonians continued to wear masks and limit the size and frequency of social gatherings and, most important, more Oregonians have been getting vaccinated every day,” Allen said Friday.

But while Allen projected Oregon is still on track to vaccinate 70% of adults by the end of June and lift many of the business capacity and vaccination verification restrictions currently in place, the state’s vaccination rate is also slowly declining.

Now, OHA is hoping the plan to hand out nearly $2 million in pandemic relief funds will help turn the tide.

“The objective here is to create a new incentive to do it, to do what’s in their own self-interest, and to push the community in Oregon into that target herd immunity level,” Monk said.

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.


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