1St Winners Of Massachusetts Vaccine Lottery Announced

BOSTON (AP) — A health insurance company worker and a rising sophomore at a suburban high school are the first winners of the state's VaxMillions Giveaway lottery for people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

Darrell Washington, 63, of Weymouth, won the $1 million prize, while Daniela Maldonado, 15, of Chelsea won a $300,000 college scholarship.

“This is a very exciting day and I hope it does serve as a reminder to others that this day can happen again, and so with the delta variant sort of creeping around our state, now is as good a time as any to make sure that you get vaccinated," said state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the state lottery.

Getting a vaccination was never an issue for Washington, a case manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“It was rather important for me to actually do this ... because I have family members who have co-morbidities and I just couldn't imagine me being a host for the virus and then getting them sick and critically ill and possibly passing away,” he said at a news conference where the winners were announced.

He urged those hesitant to get a vaccine to think of their families and protect them.

Maldonado, who attends Chelsea High School, is still a few years away from college but already has her sights set on either Boston University or the University of Massachusetts, she said.

Now she has more options.

“We’re a low-income family so it was going to be hard for me to continue my education,” she said, describing history and mathematics as her academic passions.

Chelsea was one of the communities hardest hit in the state by the virus.

Washington and Maldonado both said they were a little skeptical when they were first informed earlier this week by a state official they had won.

“I thought it was a scam,” Maldonado said.

Washington went online to confirm that the person who called and emailed him about his windfall really worked for the state.

Washington didn't say exactly what he would do with the money other than to say he had “good things” planned, and noting that he is nearing retirement age.

The goal of the vaccine lottery was to spur more people to get vaccinated, and it appears to be working, Baker said. Since the state announced the lottery, about 200,000 additional people have gotten at least one shot, he said.

About 4.3 million state residents are fully vaccinated and 7,000 to 10,000 shots are going into arms every week, he said.

There are four more drawings for each prize, which are being funded by federal coronavirus relief funds.