Four chances to win $1 million for getting shots ::

— To boost the number of North Carolinians getting vaccinated against coronavirus, Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that the state will provide four $1 million prizes this summer to any adult who’s gotten a vaccine shot.

The Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing runs June 23 to Aug. 4. A drawing for a $1 million prize will be held every other Wednesday during that period, and anyone who’s gotten at least one dose of vaccine since last December is automatically eligible. People vaccinated on or after Thursday will have two chances at each prize.

The state also will hold four drawings for $125,000 college scholarships for youths ages 12 to 17 who have gotten at least one shot.

“Regardless of who wins this, there’s no way to lose,” Cooper said during a news conference. “Even if your name isn’t drawn, the worst you’ll do is get strong protection against a deadly virus.”

North Carolina outpaced the national rate for vaccinations early on but has lagged behind the U.S. in recent weeks. As of Thursday, 54 percent of adults in the state have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state Department of Health and Human Services data, compared with nearly 64 percent nationwide. North Carolina’s rate hasn’t changed in the last week.

Cooper said about 2.5 million adults statewide haven’t yet been vaccinated, so state officials are “pulling out all the stops” to get more shots in more arms.

“Vaccines are the key to beating this virus,” he said. “Getting this life-saving vaccine to those people is critical to the health of our people and the health of our economy.”

State officials will work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal Indian Health Service to incorporate the names of people vaccinated through those agencies into North Carolina’s vaccination database to ensure those people are eligible for the drawings, officials said.

The $1 million drawings are patterned after similar “lotteries” in other states. In Ohio, for example, vaccinations jumped 28 percent in two weeks when that state offered $1 million prizes for being vaccinated, DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

North Carolina also plans to expand a program that recently started in four counties offering $25 cash cards to people for getting vaccinated or driving people to clinics to get their shots, Cooper said.

“Whatever motivates people, we want to do what works,” he said, adding that the state is using federal pandemic relief funds to pay for the incentives. “It’s not only important to that person and that family, it’s important for our entire state.”

Nearly 550 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, and 16 more virus-related deaths were reported Thursday. More than 1 million people statewide have been infected by the virus since the pandemic began 15 months ago.

“I think money is definitely motivational for everybody,” Cal Goodell said when asked if he liked the $1 million drawings idea.

Jay Grooms said he hasn’t been vaccinated yet but plans to do so. An extra $1 million will be another motivation for a lot of people, he said.

“It is a pandemic right now, and people need money. People need money, so why wouldn’t it work?” Grooms said.

Tracking NC coronavirus cases by county

Cooper and Cohen said the state has plenty of available vaccine if demand spikes in the coming days because of the cash drawings. The state hasn’t ordered any new doses from the federal government in the past two weeks because of low demand.

“I’m not concerned about any increase of numbers. In fact, we welcome that,” Cohen said. “We really wants folks to come in to get the vaccine as soon as possible. We want them to get protected and entered into this drawing.”

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