OLYMPIA – A motorcycle mechanic from south King County became the state’s biggest, and final, winner of the vaccine lottery.
Kameron M., 23, won $1 million as part of the state’s program to incentivize more people to get vaccinated.
Washington joined a dozen other states in creating a vaccine lottery, offering up hundreds of prizes, including four $250,000 drawings, game consoles, gift cards and more, over the last month. But in Washington and other states, it’s unclear if the lottery even helped incentivize people to get vaccinated.
When the state lottery called, Kameron, whose last name was withheld by the state, thought it was a scam.
The lottery then got a hold of his mother, who told Kameron she thought it was real: He had just won $1 million.
“I didn’t even really believe it,” he said in a news conference on Friday.
He had no idea the state had even created a lottery for those who had been vaccinated .
But Kameron, who got the vaccine almost as soon as he was eligible, said he got it because he went with his gut.
“I wanted to be safe,” he said. “I wanted my family safe and my peers safe.”
Kameron said he’s working on finding a financial adviser, and he’ll likely use the $1 million to invest.
Gov. Jay Inslee said he hopes Kameron and the vaccine lottery will inspire more people to get vaccinated. He did not say for sure whether the lottery got more people interested in a vaccine. Before the lottery was announced, there was a “precipitous decline” in the number of people getting vaccinated, Inslee said. After the lottery was announced, that rate of decline slowed, he said.
“I think this exercise was useful,” he said. “If nothing else, because it kept this in the public eye.”
Other states have implemented vaccine lotteries, but their success rates are still unclear.
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that maybe Ohio’s lottery, the first in the country, wasn’t as successful as Gov. Mike DeWine thought it was early on.
The study found the lottery coincided with the Pfizer vaccine opening up to those 12 to 15 years old. When more people became eligible, Ohio’s improved rates were similar to national vaccine rates.
Eighteen states, such as Louisiana, Maryland, New York, New Mexico and West Virginia, implemented similar lotteries.
Since Ohio became the first state to offer a vaccine lottery, vaccination rates briefly increased nationally and have since flattened, according to ABC News.
Washington State Lottery Director Marcus Glasper pointed to the in-person press conference announcing the winner as a result of the state’s vaccination rate.
“When we launched this promotion, we did so virtually, and today we’re here together,” he said.
On Wednesday, the state reached its goal of 70% of those 16 and up having at least one shot, although that rate is not seen everywhere in the state. Spokane County’s rate is almost 54%. In Garfield County, the rate is as low as 30%.
Inslee said the state will continue to be “very diligent” every day to increase those vaccination rates. Those who don’t have a vaccine have “a target on their back” as variants of the COVID-19 virus spread nationally among those who are not yet vaccinated.
And for those who did get vaccinated but didn’t win a prize in the lottery, Inslee said they’re giving “a great gift” by saving their life and others’.
“It’s even better than a million dollars,” he said.
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