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Public, local health officials react to new statewide vaccine incentive program

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 11:40 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - North Carolinians who have received a shot will have a shot at $1million this summer following the launch of a new vaccine incentive program.

Governor Roy Cooper announced a new incentive program on Thursday that will start June 23rd. Anyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine will automatically be entered in a drawing for $1 million.

Over the next three months, four people who have received a vaccine in North Carolina will end the summer with a lot more cash in their pocket.

Governor Cooper says it’s a no-lose situation.

“Regardless of who wins, there’s no way to lose,” Cooper said. “A chance at a million dollars or a college scholarship is pretty good motivation. But even if your name isn’t drawn, the worst you’ll do is get strong protection from a deadly virus.”

People ages 12-17 who have gotten at least one shot will be automatically entered into four drawings for a $125,000 scholarship for a college of their choice.

Twelve-year-old Jahzaria Williams received her first dose on Thursday and said she is excited about the possibility of winning tuition money at such a young age.

“I think my thoughts are very good about that because I get to use that money on something I actually really need,” she said.

And because she got her shot today, her name will be entered twice. Those getting their first shot from Thursday going forward will be entered twice for each drawing.

The New Hanover County Public Health Director David Howard expects the incentive to bring some undecided people off the fence.

“The timing is right,” Howard said. “In addition to the money available, we incentivize people just by thinking through the benefits to them personally, their family and everyone around them to get the vaccine.”

Keryn Vickers is already vaccinated and likes the move to keep fighting the virus.

“I think it’s a great way to get the rest of the population inoculated, which is very important because we need to be healthy, we need to be safe, and we need to stop the spread,” Vickers said.

Some argue, however, that the lure of millions might pressure people into making a personal decision.

Jayson Hall said he is choosing not to get the vaccine until it’s proven to be 100% safe and 100% effective. He, like others, believes this money could have been used to help businesses and communities who were hit hard during the pandemic.

“I feel that if you want to get the vaccine, fine get it — but you’re just trying to pressure people into getting something they don’t want to take,” he said. “You have a chance to win the lottery — that’s all it is — same chance you have by buying a ticket now, you know. It’s just no incentive in my opinion. I think it’s just a waste of money. It could go to helping businesses and other things that really need to help the economy and the community.”

State treasurer Dale Folwell tweeted out a statement that said in part, “Bribing people regarding a personal medical choice is yet another governmental over reach.”

He continued on by saying, “The NC Emergency Management Act was never intended to create a lottery for vaccines. What’s next?”

North Carolina is using federal coronavirus relief funds for this program after seeing benefits in other states, according to Cooper.

According to Thursday data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, 54 percent of adults have been given at least one dose while 50 percent are fully vaccinated.

The first drawing will be held on June 23. Drawings will be held every other Wednesday before ending on Aug. 4.

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