by J.D. Davidson
Ohio’s newest COVID-19 vaccination incentive program doubled in size Friday when state officials announced a total of $2 million in scholarships will be given way and age ranges will expand.
The program that originally targeted 12- to 25-year-olds now will include those age 5-11 once the vaccine is authorized for their use. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said authorization should come by the end of the month.
“We are hearing promising news following the clinical trial and safety data submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by Pfizer for their COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds,” Vanderhoff said. “In anticipation of a COVID-19 vaccine being authorized for children as young as 5 in the near future, we have decided to broaden the Ohio Vax-2-School program to include this age group, should they become eligible for vaccines.”
The program begins Monday, and 150 $10,000 scholarships and five $100,000 scholarships will be given away in a lottery fashion. The scholarship can be used at any Ohio college, university, technical/trade school or career program.
The Ohio Department of Health is using part of its federal COVID-19 relief money to pay for the scholarships.
“We are hopeful that the $2 million in scholarship prizes will provide an incentive, much like Vax-a-Million did, to help speed up the vaccination timeline for Ohioans,” Vanderhoff said. “As you will recall, in the first week after Ohio Vax-A-Million was announced, there was a 44% increase compared to the base in vaccination rates for those 16 and older, and a 15% boost the following week. For all ages, there was a 106% increase compared to the base in the first week, and a 53% increase the second week.”
DeWine led nationwide vaccine incentive efforts earlier this year when he began the state’s Vax-a-Million lottery program, which gave away $5 million in federal relief to five $1 million winners, along with five full college scholarships.
That program showed an initial boost in vaccinations but a study said the program did little to increase overall vaccine numbers in the state.
The study, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded reports that the state’s Vax-a-Million lottery program increased rates failed to factor in vaccinations expanded to ages 12-15.
DeWine rolled out the $100 state employee incentive in July, and by mid-August, nearly 1,000 employees or their spouses took advantage of the offer.
County health departments throughout the state also have offered incentives from gift cards to cash to try to improve vaccine rates after the state said it could use previous COVID-19 relief money to pay people to get vaccinated.
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “child being vaccinated” by SELF Magazine CC BY 2.0.