In news that sounds beyond parody, West Virginia announced this week that it will offer guns, trucks, and cash as incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
As announced by Governor Jim Justice on Tuesday, West Virginia residents who enter the vaccine incentive lottery will be offered a chance to win hunting rifles, shotguns, customized trucks, short vacation breaks at state parks, and hunting or fishing licenses for life. Other incentives include a chance to win a full scholarship at any higher education institution in the state. As for the top prizes, $558,000 will be awarded to one person as the second place prize, and there’s a grand prize of $1.59 million.
Anyone who has been vaccinated in West Virginia already will need to enter the lottery for a chance to win. So far, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services reports 51 percent of the state’s population has received at least their first dose of the vaccine, while 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated. Gov. Justice is aiming to vaccinate 65 percent of all eligible residents by June 20, which is the state’s 158th birthday.
“The faster we get people across the finish line the more lives we save. That’s all there is to it,” Justice said. “If the tab just keeps running the cost is enormous. The hospitalizations are enormous. We have to get all of our folks across the finish line.”
West Virginia isn’t the only state putting up incentives for individuals to get vaccinated, although its offerings are perhaps among the most unique. Last month, California announced it would distribute $116 million in prize money as part of its efforts to get more people vaccinated, and Ohio announced similiar plans with a smaller total prize pool around the same time.