A West Virginia Twist On Vaccine Incentives: Guns

States across the U.S. are offering all kinds of incentives to residents to convince them to get a COVID-19 vaccine – cash lotteries, college scholarships, amusement park tickets and more. West Virginia, with one of the nation’s lowest rates of vaccination of any state, just rolled out a program unlike any other.

Gov. Jim Justice announced that the state, in addition to cash prizes, will offer five custom hunting rifles and five custom shotguns as prizes in its vaccine lottery. The drawing will take place on Fathers Day, June 20. A $1 million cash prize also will be awarded that day.

The state also will conduct a series of weekly drawings from June 20 through Aug. 4. Other prizes will include two full-ride, four-year college scholarships, custom pickup trucks and lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. In addition, any West Virginia resident between the ages of 16 and 35 who is fully vaccinated will receive $100 in savings bonds or gift cards.

The state’s prizes are designed to target demographics like gun owners to help combat vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, who polling¬†has repeatedly¬†shown are disproportionately more likely to refuse the vaccine than other demographics. The state’s health department says 51 percent of West Virginians so far have received at least one vaccine dose. Only 41 percent are fully vaccinated.

By contrast, neighboring Maryland on Wednesday announced a 70 percent full vaccination rate. Maryland’s incentive program automatically enters all vaccinated adults in a lottery with a chance to win a daily prize of $40,000 or a grand prize of $400,000. Drawing began May 24 and continue through July 4.

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