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Big Bucks and Ford Trucks: West Virginia Steps Up COVID-19 Vaccination Incentives

Photo Courtesy of W.Va. Governor’s Office Gov. Jim Justice announces additional incentives for residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during a Thursday briefing.

CHARLESTON — Not willing to let West Virginia sit in the media shadow of Ohio’s $1 million drawings for COVID-19 vaccine recipients, Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday the possibility of additional vaccine incentives for all residents.

During his end-of-the-week COVID-19 briefing at the State Capitol Building on Thursday afternoon, Justice said the state would hold drawings on June 20 — the state’s 158th birthday — for all residents who have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 shots since December 2020.

“You could get vaccinated today and you’d be in the drawing,” Justice said. “You could get vaccinated today, tomorrow, or the next day and you could be in the drawings as well. As we proceed ahead from June 20, we’ll keep drawing. As we keep drawing, if you’re vaccinated and get the first shot, you’re in the drawing. I wouldn’t dink around with this; I’d go get myself a shot.”

June 20 also coincides with the end of the indoor mask executive order for unvaccinated residents, as well as the day after the $300-per-week pandemic unemployment benefits end for West Virginians.

Justice said drawing prizes would include college scholarships, 10 Ford Rocky Ridge custom F-150 trucks, and “big, big cash prizes.”

“I’ve asked you for all of us, I’ve asked you for your family to get vaccinated,” Justice said. “We want as many winners as we can come up with … we’re going to do what Ohio has already done, but we’re going to make a few West Virginians millionaires before this is over. We can do that, but we’ve got to get you vaccinated.”

Ohio revealed the first winners of its five-week vaccine lottery Wednesday. Winners were selected by Ohio Lottery officials Monday. One winner received $1 million while another winner received a college scholarship. More than 2.7 million adults and 104,000 eligible children have signed up for Ohio’s vaccine lottery since it was first announced by Gov. Mike DeWine in May.

Justice said the rules for the June 20 drawings would be announced Tuesday after Memorial Day. Funding for the drawings will come from remaining federal CARES Act COVID-19 relief dollars. Anticipating criticism for using coronavirus dollars for the incentive program, Justice said the overall cost is small compared to what the state has spent since the start of the pandemic due to testing, personal protective equipment, and hospitalizations.

“The cost … of continuing to sit around and go on and on and on with this as far as the testing costs and everything, we can absolutely save ourselves so much money if the faster we can get to a big amount of our population that is vaccinated,” Justice said. “The faster we get there, the more lives we’ll save, the more money we’ll save, and the more absolute back to normalcy we’ll get.”

Last week, Justice announced that vaccinated residents between the ages of 16 and 35 could go to governor.wv.gov and sign up for either a $100 prepaid debit card or a $100 U.S. savings bond. As of Thursday, more than 20,000 eligible young people have claimed their vaccine incentive.

The number of partially vaccinated West Virginians aged 12 and older hasn’t changed much since Tuesday’s briefing, sitting at 57 percent of eligible residents with at least one shot of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Justice set a goal of getting 65 percent of eligible residents partially vaccinated by June 20.

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