Vaccinated? You have a shot at winning $5 million - Albuquerque Journal

Vaccinated? You have a shot at winning $5 million

Michael Arias of Albuquerque fishes along the Pecos River near Terrero on Tuesday. The state is offering hunting and fishing licenses as part of a campaign to encourage new vaccinations against COVID-19. Arias has already been vaccinated. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Facing a slowdown in vaccine demand, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday launched an incentive program that will offer $10 million in cash prizes to New Mexicans who have been vaccinated and register for a lottery.

The state will award $250,000 to one winner in each of the state’s four public health regions every week for five weeks in June and July. The first drawing is tentatively scheduled for June 18.

A grand prize of $5 million will be offered in August.

In an interview, Lujan Grisham said she and others in her administration examined state and federal data on what would motivate people who are open to vaccination but haven’t signed up for the shot.

Other states, she said, have generated strong interest with cash incentives as vaccine demand is otherwise waning.

“Now is the right time,” Lujan Grisham said, “and I have the data that proves it works.”

To be eligible, New Mexico residents must register at the state’s new “Vax 2 the Max” website. Winners must show their federal vaccination card to claim their prize.

The registration deadline is 6 p.m. the day before each drawing. Participants should register only once, and those who don’t win will be entered in the next week’s drawing.

Funding for the program comes from federal stimulus funds. The U.S. Treasury Department confirmed last week that American Rescue Plan money can be used for lotteries and other incentives, state officials said.

Lujan Grisham said her administration has authority to disburse the federal funds and that legislative approval isn’t required.

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat and chairwoman of the Legislative Finance Committee, said Tuesday that legislators should help determine how to spend the federal stimulus funding – an ongoing point of contention between the executive and legislative branches over who has authority.

“My concern is that we need to have a seat at the table when it comes to how federal money is being spent,” Lundstrom said in an interview.

As for the lottery, she said, “I’m not sure it’s a good use of the money.”

Lujan Grisham said seeking legislative approval would delay the program and create more problems than it solves. Nevertheless, she said, her administration is working with legislative leaders more broadly on how to spend federal stimulus funding.

“Their opinions matter to us,” Lujan Grisham said.

Other states offering incentives include Ohio and Oregon, which have announced $1 million lottery drawings. Maine is using free fishing licenses, baseball tickets and gift cards to boost vaccinations.

West Virginia is offering cash and pickup trucks.

Register just once

Participants in the New Mexico contest must be state residents 18 or older. Employees of the Governor’s Office or the New Mexico Lottery Authority and their households cannot participate.

Appointees of the governor aren’t eligible either.

The state will award $1 million in cash each week, spread out over five weeks this summer. One winner from each of the state’s four regions – Albuquerque is considered part of the northwest – will get $250,000.

To be eligible for the $250,000 award, the entrant must register once, not multiple times, at the state’s “Vax 2 the Max” website, and the person must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

For the $5 million prize in August, the winner must be fully vaccinated, meaning the entrant has received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Smaller incentives will also be offered:

• The lottery will operate 10 “prize wheels” at vaccination sites throughout the state. The wheel will be spun after someone receives a dose of the vaccine to determine a prize, while supplies last.

• New Mexicans receiving a vaccine through a provider working with the registration site can win “staycation” travel packages valued at $600 to $1,100, fishing and hunting licenses, and annual day-use passes at state parks, museums and cultural sites. No extra registration – besides the vaccine-booking website – is required, and the prizes are intended for people now getting their vaccine doses, not residents who got shots earlier this year.

5 points from 60% goal

The package of incentives is designed to encourage New Mexicans to roll up their sleeves and get the shots.

New Mexico was stuck for a few days last week at 55% of its population 16 and over fully vaccinated – 5 percentage points away from its target of 60%.

The share of fully vaccinated New Mexico adults edged up to 56% Tuesday.

Lujan Grisham has said her administration plans to lift capacity restrictions on businesses once the state reaches the 60% goal.

But demand has fallen as the New Mexicans most eager for the shots have already received them. At least one recent shot clinic was canceled in Albuquerque after too few people signed up for the vaccine.

Nonetheless, about 66% of residents 16 and over have received at least one dose, indicating the state can clear the 60% threshold if everyone who needs a second shot returns to complete the series.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced a few weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine takes just one shot.

Lujan Grisham said the early response to the new incentives was strong. About 25,000 people who are already vaccinated signed up for sweepstakes by Friday afternoon, she said, and about 1,500 people registered on the state’s vaccine appointment website.

“It’s already working,” she said.

Coronavirus infections and deaths, meanwhile, are falling. The state announced two additional fatalities Tuesday, bringing the state’s official virus-related death toll to 4,264.

The number of new COVID-19 infections also dipped below 100 a day over the long weekend, well below the recent average of 134 a day. New Mexico reported just 381 new cases in the four-day period that ended Tuesday.

The Department of Health said 105 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in New Mexico on Tuesday – a 28% decline since April 30.

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