Free beer, guns and cash: A state-by-state guide to Covid vaccine incentives

Following Ohio’s lead, states across the country are devising draw dropping vaccine incentive programmes worth millions of dollars

Clara Hill
Thursday 03 June 2021 20:53
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President Joe Biden has dubbed June a “month of action” to boost Covid-19 vaccination rates in the US before his administration’s 4 July deadline to inoculate 70 per cent of the country with at least one dose.

The White House has teamed up with various companies and organisations to offer free beer, childcare and outreach to communities with higher levels of vaccine hesitancy, including low income and communities of colour.

Some states have upped the ante themselves in an effort to protect residents from the pandemic, including million-dollar cash prizes, and debt-free education.

“The more people we get vaccinated, the more success we’re going to have in the fight against this virus,” Biden said in an address to the nation on Wednesday.


Washington is the latest to declare a state-wide lottery to increase levels of vaccination. According to Governor Jay Inslee, four people who live in Washington are going to be able to win $250,000. Each draw will take place weekly. One extra lucky person is going to win $1 million at the final draw that will take place on 13 July.

All four of Washington’s state funded universities will be given $1 million to carry out their own internal campaigns to promote vaccination.

“Good luck in the lottery. This will be the most important one you’ll ever be in.” Inslee said at a press conference yesterday.

Other people can win other prizes, such as scholarships, airfare and tech, like games consoles and speakers.

To qualify for the vaccine lottery, you need to be 16 and over and have got at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. No need to register, as the names will be plucked off Washington’s Department of Health system, so if you got vaccinated earlier, you will still qualify to win.

Unfortunately, if you work for or are a family member of someone who works for the The Department of Health, in the Governor’s Office or at the Washington State Lottery, you cannot participate in the scheme.

However, the state’s Liquor and Cannabis board is also allowing regulated weed dispensers to give away one free ready rolled joint to those who get a Covid vaccine at their in-store clinic. The scheme is nicknamed “Joints for Jabs” and is happening until 12 July. Others are labelling it ‘Poke and Toke.’


Ohio’s governor Mike DeWine grabbed everyone’s attention by announcing a $1m lottery once a week for five weeks via television address. To enter all you needed was to receive a jab and be over 18 to register to win. Following his announcement, the vaccine rate is reported to have gone up by 45 per cent, according to DeWine.

“As more and more Ohioans get vaccinated, we are seeing more and more the pandemic is finally turning in our corner,” he said in a speech.

They also offered a scheme for those under 18, but instead of a cash prize, the winners would get a full ride to any of Ohio’s state universities.

The first winner Abbigail Bugenske, 21, from Silverlake told reporters of her win, “it was a crazy night”.

Virus Outbreak Boosters


Larry Hogan, governor of the state, shared the news on 20 May that the state’s government would join up with the local lottery service and every day from 25 May to 4 July they would give a different winner $40,000 if they were vaccinated.

“Our mission is to ensure that no arm is left behind and we’re committed to leaving no stone unturned and using every resource at our disposal to achieve that goal,” he said.

He also said there was no limit to each time you could win, encouraging people to get their dose earlier so they could potentially win more money and register quicker.

The final draw, on Independence Day, is giveaway of $2m.

New York

Andrew Cuomo, the governor, brought out his “Vax and Scratch” scheme, where when you get your jab, you are entered into a free New York State Lottery, where top prize stands at $5m.

"We know that vaccinations are the vital piece of the puzzle we need to crush COVID once and for all. We’re doing everything we can to make getting a vaccine as quick and easy as possible, but as vaccination rates slow across the state, we’re going to have to get creative to put even more shots in arms.” he said in a statement.

Prizes range from $20 to $5m. To get yours, take your vaccination card to any retailer selling the tickets, which are usually sold for $20, and claim your free scratch card.

West Virginia

West Virginia was one of the first states to offer cash for jabs. Their first proposal was for a $100 savings bond aimed at encouraging young people to get vaccinated.

The new project is another lottery, but the prizes range from cash, trucks, guns and scholarships. The requirement for entry is one shot of a vaccine.

It will kick off on 20 June, $1m, and other goodies will be given out each week until 4 August. The final date will have two prizes, a jackpot of nearly $1.6m and another for $580,000.

"All of our hospitalizations, all of all our our ICU units, all of our deaths, for the most part, are all people that have not been vaccinated. I don’t know how it gets any simpler than that,” Governor Jim Justice said at a news conference on 1 June.

California Vaccine Jackpot


The Sunshine State is offering over $15 million dollars in prizes with their scheme to get more people vaccinated.

Ten residents, aged 12 or over and with at least one vaccine dose, can win $1.5m. Entry is automatic but winnings can only be collected once you’ve had a full round of doses.

Additionally, they are 30 lots of $50,000 up for grabs on Friday evenings.

To top it off, from 27 May, the first 2 million California residents to get fully jabbed with get a $50 gift card.

“California has already made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, with the lowest case rates in the country, while administering millions more vaccines than any other state. But we aren’t stopping there, we’re doing everything it takes to get Californians vaccinated as we approach June 15 to help us fully reopen safely,” governor Gavin Newsom said.


Governor Jared Polis’ scheme is inspired by Ohio’s, with five residents winning $1m in a weekly drawing.

“All you have to do to enter is get vaccinated,” Polis said at a press conference. “This is a million dollars cash on the barrel today. May the odds be ever in your favor, Colorado.”

In addition to the lottery, the state is planning to give out $50,000 scholarships to 25 students who opt to get a coronavirus jab. The money will go into a CollegeInvest fund and accrue interest and can be used for academic or technical studies.

Virus Outbreak Most Hesitant


Maine’s reward is worth less cash, but it will appeal to the state’s outdoors enthusiasts.

The “Your Shot to Get Outdoors” program permitted adults over the age of 18 who had their first dose to get either a $20 LL Bean credit or a hunting and fishing license. It was not popular, with less than 6,000 people claiming anything in the qualifying time frame of 11 to 15 May.

Governor Janet Mills said, “With this new initiative, we are encouraging Maine people to get their vaccine and get outdoors to experience all that our state has to offer. Whether you’re an angler or a hunter, a baseball fan or a racing fan, or someone who just all-around enjoys being outside, now is a great time to protect yourself from COVID-19 and take to the outdoors.”


Last week, governor Tim Waltz outlined a vaccine program called “Your Shot to Summer” to get over 70 per cent of Minnesotans over the age of 16 vaccinated. It involved prizes such as tickets to theme parks, fishing licenses and gift cards.

“Take advantage of the incentives that we’re offering,” Walz said to reporters. “Get out and explore Minnesota.”

New Jersey

“Operation Jersey Summer” was introduced by governor Phil Murphy two weeks ago. The program offers gift cards, access to state parks and wine tastings.

“Millions of New Jerseyans have rolled up their sleeves and received a vaccination to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, but there is still much work to be done in order to reach our goal of 4.7 million fully vaccinated New Jersey adults by June 30,” Murphy said at a press conference.


Governor Kate Brown is offering any state resident over the age of 18 who has got at least one jab the chance to register for a lottery where the prize is $1m.

“My encouragement to Oregonians is take your shot now,” Brown said at a press conference and evoked a little friendly state neighbor competition: “We have an opportunity to beat California to reopening the economy if we can get close to 250,000 Oregonians vaccinated in the next few weeks.”


Illinois isn’t as flashy as the other states listed above, but governor JB Pritzker is buying everyone who has been jabbed with one covid vaccination a round at participating bars and restaurants.

There are currently suggestions from Pritzker that a similar scheme like Ohio’s is coming to Illinois.

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