JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
More than 100,000 people have signed up for a drawing for $10,000 through Missouri's new vaccine program.
The program had hit that number by about noon Thursday, according to state health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox, less than 24 hours after Gov. Mike Parson announced the $9 million program meant to increase the state's lagging vaccination rate of about 40%. Health experts say that low rate is helping to drive a delta-variant powered coronavirus surge that currently has Missouri third in the nation for new cases behind Florida and Arkansas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Missouri Vaccine Incentive Program (Mo VIP) has three tiers of eligibility: a red tier for Missourians 18 or older who receive at least one dose on or after July 21, a white tier for 18 or older Missourians who have already received at least one dose and a blue tier for Missourians 12 to 17 years old. Those in the blue tier are eligible for an education savings account through the Missouri State Treasurer's MOST 529 program instead of the lottery-like prize for the other two tiers.
Blue tier winners will have an education savings account created for them that they can access after they turn 18. MOST 529 savings accounts are tax-free as long as the winner is using them for education; if they choose to use it for something else they will have to pay taxes on the winnings.
"Those individuals can accept that prize with parental consent, and then when they turn 18 they will have the ability to use that money to further their education," said Robert Knodell, acting director of the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Officials with the Department of Health and Senior Services said the overall goal of the program is to encourage people in areas with lower vaccination numbers to take the first step toward vaccinations. Prizes are offered by congressional districts, so there is likely a higher chance of winning in areas where fewer people are vaccinated.
"I think everyone who gets vaccinated during the duration of this program is a winner, whether they get a prize or not, because this vaccine will allow them to, to live their lives more confidently more normally to know that they're protecting themselves in their neighbors, and helping communities, defeat the COVID-19 and the delta variant specifically," Knoll said.
Several Mid-Missouri counties have low vaccination rates, though Boone County has the highest rate in the state with 46.4% of its population fully vaccinated. In Miller County, just 26.1% of residents have started their vaccination regimen. The number in Pulaski County is just 15.3%.
Missourians are not automatically enrolled when they get vaccinated in order to protect anyone who may want to keep their vaccination records private. Those interested can enter online or call 877-435-8411.
Check back for more on this developing story or watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.