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As Missouri grapples with the latest surge of COVID-19, Gov. Mike Parson said Friday the state’s new vaccine incentive lottery is helping drive up vaccinations.

Since the launch of the program on July 21, the state has seen about 180,000 people receive their first shot, according to the state’s data. About 43% of Missouri residents are fully vaccinated.

“As governor, I have worked hard to ensure that vaccines are widely available to all Missourians and focused on encouraging our citizens to get the facts from trusted experts,” Parson, a Bolivar Republican, said in a statement. “We’re excited to celebrate the winners and their choice to become vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Residents who have started vaccination are eligible for prizes worth $10,000. Cash prizes are offered for adults. Children ages 12 to 17 can win a $10,000 deposit into a state-run education savings account.

The first of five drawings happened Friday. Eighty adults and 20 kids will win prizes during the first round.

Nearly 500,000 people have entered the contest, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Most of them — roughly 90% — had already received the first dose of the vaccine before the program was announced.

In Missouri’s 8th congressional district, which includes Texas County, there were 3,621 registered who received a dose or on or after July 21. Another 36,941 participated who had received at least one dose before July 21.

Just under 25,000 adults in the state received a dose after the rollout and signed up for the program. Roughly 26,000 children are enrolled.

The state is holding four more drawings through October. People who have already signed up can win during any of those drawings. A total of 900 prizes will be awarded.

Robert Knodell, acting director of the state’s public health agency, said Friday that everyone who enters the lottery is ultimately a winner, “regardless of whether they receive a prize.”

“We know the vaccines give protection against severe illness, hospitalizations and death we have seen with COVID-19 — that’s the true definition of winning,” Knodell said in a statement.

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