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With one week to go before Missouri launches its first drawing of a lottery designed to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19, officials say more than 358,000 have registered for the chance to win $10,000.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says the numbers are a sign that the program, announced on July 22, is having a positive effect.
“We are very pleased with the number of registrations so far. Just a couple weeks in, the current numbers are exceeding our expectations. The average daily number of doses administered have increased by about 50% since the beginning of July which is very encouraging,” said DHSS spokeswoman Lisa Cox.
Missouri’s vaccination rate has been relatively stagnant in recent days, hovering at the 41.8% range for all residents who are fully vaccinated. That puts the state in the bottom third in the nation.
The state remains a hot spot nationally for outbreaks of the deadly virus, with an average of 2,068 people hospitalized over the past two weeks. That’s up 32%, according to data collected by the New York Times.
Among those hospitalized and on a ventilator is Steve Walsh of Ashland, communications director for U.S. Rep. Vicki Hartzler, a Republican from Cass County. His wife, Republican state Rep. Sarah Walsh also has been sickened by the respiratory disease, but is not hospitalized.
Walsh, who serves as majority caucus chair for the House Republicans, told a Jefferson City television station Thursday that she chose not to get a COVID-19 vaccination because vaccines were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and she had concerns about risk factors.
She also told the television station she didn’t want a vaccination because she hadn’t contracted the virus for more than a year.
The state’s vaccine incentive program will give Missourians a chance to win one of 900 $10,000 prizes.
The first drawing for the $10,000 prizes will be Aug. 13. Drawings will take place every other Friday until Oct. 8, for five total rounds.
Each week’s 180 winners will come from all over the state and from different time periods of vaccination.
For example, one category, which will have 60 winners every other week, is for those ages 18 and older who received their first vaccine dose after July 21, when the program was announced.
A second category is for those ages 18 and older who received their first vaccine dose before July 21.
The third category, which will have 20 winners every other week, is for those ages 12 to 17 who have received a vaccine dose at any time.
The winners will be divided among Missouri’s nine Congressional districts.
“We’re looking forward to the first drawing and subsequent announcement of winners and hope that this activity spurs some important conversations and encourages individuals to give vaccination some thought and look to medical experts for sound advice,” Cox said.
Residents must fill out a registration form on the state’s vaccination website, mostopscovid.com