LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man from the Las Vegas area won the $1 million grand prize Thursday to cap an eight-week coronavirus vaccination jackpot program that Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak created for successfully promoting coronavirus inoculations.
The prize winners were introduced by their first name and last initial at a live event hosted by the governor at the Las Vegas Convention Center, by aides at a satellite gathering at the Sierra Arts Foundation’s Riverside Gallery in Reno, and streamed to the internet.
Sisolak, a Democrat, urged people to still get shots even though the promotional program called Vax Nevada Days was over.
State health data showed the percentage of vaccinated state residents increased about 10% between the time the prize pool was announced in mid-June and it ended on Thursday.
Nearly 100% of people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Nevada are unvaccinated, Sisolak said, calling those severe illnesses preventable.
“As the scientists say, and health experts keep telling us, vaccines are the only way we will end this pandemic once and for all,” he said.
The prize program launched June 17 with $5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to induce unvaccinated people to get shots.
It put Nevada on a list of states offering unconventional incentives to revive sluggish vaccination programs amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalization and deaths attributed to the more contagious delta variant.
Nevada has about 3.1 million residents. About half the population age 12 or older, or 1.4 million, had received at least one shot by June 17, and almost 43% of eligible people were fully inoculated.
By Thursday, the population that received at least one shot had grown to more than 61% and the fully vaccinated percentage was almost 51%.
The number of vaccinations administered statewide — after peaking at more than 25,000 in mid-April — went down from about 7,000 per day in mid-June to fewer than 5,000 a day in mid-July before returning to around 7,000 daily in recent weeks.
The prize program made state residents who received at least one vaccination since December, along with vaccinated military members in Nevada and their dependents, automatically eligible to receive prizes ranging from fishing licenses to college tuition and cash prizes from $1,000 to $250,000.
The program had almost 2,000 winners, but just one grand prize winner of $1 million.