OHIO — The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Ohio Lottery Commission have officially opened the "Vax-A-Million" lottery as of 7 a.m. Tuesday.
It will be an opt-in process and participants can begin entering for either the $1 million drawing or a chance to win the scholarships at www.ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling the ODH help line at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH. The lottery closes May 23 at 11:59 p.m.
There are two parts of the lottery. One drawing will allow eligible individuals over 18 years of age to win one of five $1 million prizes, and another will give Ohioans ages 12 to 17 a chance to win full-ride scholarships.
For both the $1 million prizes and the scholarships, individuals must have had the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The state said that by Tuesday afternoon hundreds of thousands of people had entered the lottery. Exact numbers will not be released until Monday after the draw period closes.
By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, ODH had received 60,000 phone calls, and officials said the website had surpassed 25 million page views.
Stephanie McCloud, Ohio’s health director, said in a statement she was pleased to see strong numbers on the first day of the entry period.
Names will be drawn May 24 at 7:30 p.m. and announced May 26 for 7:30 p.m. Director of ODH Stephanie McCloud said the two days will allow time for officials to verify vaccination records and identity. McCloud said those opting in are giving ODH permission to verify their vaccinations, and residents may need to show their vaccination cards if asked by officials.
If someone is found to not have gotten the vaccine but falsified the information in the drawing, the participant will be disqualified and another winner will be picked.
The full-ride scholarships will be for any public Ohio college or university. The scholarship will cover tuition, room and board as well as the cost of textbooks. For winners of the scholarship money, it will be placed in the Ohio 529 Savings Plan and the student will be able to pick which college the money will apply to. McCloud clarified the money does not guarantee admittance.
The prizes will be given away once a week starting May 26.
McCloud said winners' names will be released since it is public record. The Ohio Lottery Commission Director Pat McDonald said safeguards will be in place for the drawings, such as verification from tech professionals and the state auditor will be there to review and verify the process.
Each individual who is enrolled is assigned a unique number, which is how the winners will be selected. The names will then be submitted to ODH to ensure the winner is eligible.
A little more than 37% of Ohio's population is completely vaccinated, whereas 42% have received the first dose, according to ODH.
The state expanded eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children between the ages 12 to 15 Thursday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the companies extended emergency use authorization.