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Ohio's Vax-A-Million is live: What you need to know

Five lucky — and vaccinated — Ohioans will become millionaires. Here's the fine print on the contest everyone is talking about.
Vaxamillion
www.ohiovaxamillion.com

COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine said it himself: Ohio's Vax-A-Million contest is a pretty "crazy" idea.

To clarify the details of Ohio's one-of-a-kind vaccine incentive program, on Monday morning, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud and Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald answered reporters' most pressing questions about Vax-A-Million. 

Whether you were first in line to get the jab or dreams of bags of cash were enough to convince you, here's what you need to know about the lottery everyone is talking about. Have additional questions? Email us at news@mahoningmatters.com

So, why is Ohio doing this?

The Vax-A-Million contest was devised to spread public awareness about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines while providing an incentive for Ohioans to get vaccinated. 

Will this contest work?

Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud has already called Ohio's Vax-A-Million contest a success, saying the contest has generated national attention. She also pointed to promising vaccination figures from last week. On Friday, the state reported its highest number of vaccinations in three weeks, McCloud said.  

She acknowledged new eligibility for Ohioans age 12- to 15-years-old could also account for increased vaccination uptake. However, she also pointed out that after reporting a 24 percent week over week decrease in vaccine uptake among Ohioans in ages 30 to 74, the state reported an increase of 6 percent for that age group on Friday. 

"Not only have we achieved our goal of increasing public awareness and interest, but we have slowed what was a consistent decline in uptake, and in certain age groups, we're seeing an increase again. So this is doing exactly what we intended it to do," she said. 

When will the winners be announced?

Five Ohioans will be selected. Each week's winner will be announced Wednesdays starting May 26 at about 7:29 p.m. during the lottery's regular evening Pick 3, 4, 5 drawing. The other winners will be announced June 2, 9, 16 and 23.

I thought I was automatically entered to win the money?

McCloud announced Monday morning that the contest is now opt-in only. The "opt-in" system will allow ODH to more easily and more quickly verify winners' eligibility and vaccination status, she said. It also ensures that those who do not wish to participate are not required to opt-out of the contest. 

Eligible Ohioans can register at ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-4ASKODH. 

You want me to enter my personal private health information into a flimsy state website? I don't think so. 

Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald assured Ohioans the website, which uses the Ohio Lottery's system, is secure. 

"Our website is very robust and very important to us," he said. "We have the protocols and security in place to ensure security measures, with the anti-hacking and so forth ... We think that we are robust enough to ensure that we have the capability and capacity for up to 10 million entries."

What's the plan for Ohioans under 18 who get vaccinated?

Vaccinated Ohioans age 12- to 17-years-old have the chance to win one of five full-ride scholarships, including books, room and board, to a public Ohio college or university. To enter to win the scholarship, eligible Ohioans must also register at either ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-4ASKODH. 

What if someone cheats and says they got vaccinated when they didn't?

After a winner is drawn each week, officials will verify that the individual has received the vaccine using the winner's vaccine card and records at vaccine providers. 

"In the event that the winner has not been vaccinated, the first alternate will be selected, and their vaccination will be verified," said McDonald. "This process will repeat until a qualified entrant is found."

Can I choose not to have my name announced publicly if I win?

"No. You cannot," said McCloud. 

"We think it's a public record. We think it's exciting, entertaining to allow the Ohio residents to know who the winner is," said McDonald. 

If I win do I have to pay taxes on my million?

Yes. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued to each winner, McCloud said. Scholarship winners may have tax liability for room and board expenses, if applicable.  

I'm an Ohio resident, but I got vaccinated in Florida. Can I still enter the contest?

Yes! Any permanent Ohio resident can register "regardless of where you got your vaccine," said McCloud. 

I can't get vaccinated, because of a health condition. Can I still enter the contest?

No, sorry.

"Like with the rest of the money, whether we were to use this for promotions, PSAs, things like that, it's going to be directed at those people eligible take the vaccine up," McCloud said. 

I just moved to Ohio. Can I enter?

The contest will use the same guidelines for establishing residency that the state uses for voter registration and issuing driver's licenses. For reference, to get an Ohio driver's license, an individual must provide two of the documents on this list. 

I got vaccinated a long time ago. Can I still enter the contest?

Yes! "It's not just for the newly vaccinated," said McCloud. "It's for anyone."

I'm not scheduled to get my second dose until after the deadline. Can I still enter the contest?

Yes. As long as you'll receive your first dose by the Sunday before the drawing, you can register for Ohio Vax-A-Million. 

Do I have to be registered to vote to enter the contest?

No. 

Darn! I wasn't chosen. Do I have to sign up again for future drawings?

Nope! "One sign-up is good for the entire five rounds," said McDonald. 

I'm on SSI and have Medicaid. Will winning the million dollars get me kicked off of SSI and lose my medical benefits?

From VictorMalcalaw.com: “No, lottery winnings do not affect your social security disability benefits (SSDI). But it can reduce or totally cut your Supplemental Security Income (SSI). That’s because SSDI is an earned benefit. You got it because you paid social security taxes and have proven that you are disabled. SSI, on the other hand, is a needs-based benefit. … If you’re receiving SSI, your benefits may stop temporarily. But it can resume again once your resources have fallen below the SSA’s income limit.”

I would like to know if a person doesn’t have an email address, could you still sign up for the $1 million lottery drawing?

From OhioVaxamillion.com: “If you do not have access to the internet, you may call the Ohio Department of Health (“ODH”) call center, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT and can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).”

How can I be certain my registration was successful? I did not get any kind of confirmation.

You should see this message in a green screen that you probably have to scroll down to see: "Congratulations! And a heartfelt thank you for doing your part to help make Ohio safer. You will be notified if you are one of the lucky winners."

 



Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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