FRANKFORT — Kentucky joined the giveaway bonanza Friday to entice more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with Gov. Andy Beshear offering $1 million prizes and college scholarships.
Three Kentucky adults will win $1 million prizes and 15 students ages 12-17 will be awarded full-ride scholarships to a Kentucky public university, college, technical or trade school, he announced.
The Democratic governor is hoping the chance at landing a lucrative prize is enough to overcome vaccine hesitancy keeping many Kentuckians from rolling up their sleeves for the shots.
“If you’re on the fence, how about a free ride to college?” Beshear said at a news conference. “Or how about the best odds that you will ever have at winning $1 million? All you’ve got to do is the right thing that every public health official in America says you ought to be doing anyway.”
To enter the three drawings, Kentucky adults vying for the $1 million prizes must have received at least the first dose of a Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Kentucky youngsters 12-17 must have received at least their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to be eligible for the scholarships, which will cover tuition, room-and-board and books.
The offer is available to Kentucky residents already vaccinated and those who decide to get the vaccine before the drawings.
Drawings will be July 1, July 29 and Aug. 26, with winners announced the next day.
Kentucky becomes the latest state to dangle an assortment of prizes as incentives to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. In neighboring West Virginia, vaccinated residents have a chance to win a college scholarship, an F-150 pickup truck or cash rewards.
“All you’ve got to do is the right thing,” Beshear said in pitching the Kentucky incentives. “Get protected from a terrible virus, help us defeat COVID-19, help us reach herd immunity and maybe, just maybe, end up with $1 million or a free education.”
The money for the incentives comes from federal coronavirus relief funds, Beshear’s office said.
Beshear announced the “Shot at a Million” incentive program a week before he lifts the state’s coronavirus-related capacity restrictions on June 11.
More than 2 million Kentuckians have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including more than 80% of Kentuckians ages 65 and older. But vaccination rates have lagged among younger adults, despite testimonials from the state’s most powerful Democrat and Republican about the importance of getting the shots.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly stressed the importance of getting the vaccine during his trips across the Bluegrass State. Beshear said again Friday that the vaccines are safe and effective and are the key to “winning our war against this evil virus.”
“We need even more of our fellow Kentuckians to get vaccinated before we can truly be free of COVID-19’s threat,” the governor said.
More than 7,000 Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Kentucky waited later than many other states to offer vaccination incentives.
“We watched what every other state is doing and we tried to take the very best of each one,” Beshear said.
On Friday, the state reported 531 new confirmed coronavirus cases and nine more virus-related deaths. The statewide rate of positive cases was down slightly at 2.47%. More than 290 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 87 in intensive care units.