Alaska News

Alaska launches series of $49,000 awards to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations

The state of Alaska and the Alaska Chamber launched a program on Thursday to encourage Alaskans to get vaccinated for COVID-19, giving away prizes of $49,000 apiece to one newly vaccinated adult and youth each week through Oct. 30.

A one-time prize of $49,000 also will be awarded to one Alaska adult and one youth who were vaccinated before Sept. 2, the Chamber said.

“We’re asking Alaskans to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to protect our economy and give Alaska a shot at recovery,” Kati Capozzi, Chamber president, said in a prepared statement.

More details on the program can be found at giveakashot.com.

The $1 million being used to pay for the campaign is coming from federal CARES Act funding, through a grant from the state Department of Health and Social Services to the Alaska Chamber. The program is being administered by the Chamber.

[Alaska’s COVID-19 hospitalizations hit yet another new record with no virus slowdown in sight]

Lotteries to incentivize vaccines have been tried in other states, with mixed results. Some states reported they led to increased vaccinations. Others, such as Arkansas, said they did not provide hoped-for results.

Qualifying participants must be Alaskans vaccinated with a COVID-19 shot in Alaska. Those vying for the weekly award must be vaccinated in the week before each drawing. Also, previously vaccinated Alaskans vying for the one-time award can sign up starting Thursday. Winners who were previously vaccinated will receive their $49,000 award in the last week of the program.

Entries for the first pool of newly vaccinated people are due by Sept. 11, and the first announcement of the winners will be Sept. 16. The program begins today, Sept. 2. Winners will be randomly selected during drawings.

Entrants must submit basic information on the secure website, including their name, state residency status and information about their shot.

[Anchorage School District had no plans to report COVID-19 cases by school. That changed this week.]

The winners will be randomly selected from two age groups, Alaskans 18 and older and those between 12 and 17 years old.

The older group will win cash. The younger group will receive $49,000 through the Alaska 529 education savings plan, where the money is invested for the child’s education. Parents or guardians of the youth winners will also receive $10,000 in cash if they’re vaccinated.

“It is incumbent upon the individual to enter timely so as not to miss the weekly drawing for which they are eligible; entries are accepted and valid only for the week in which they received their COVID-19 vaccine,” the Chamber said in a statement.

COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday reached their second-highest daily tally ever, 801, as the highly contagious delta variant leads a resurgence in cases across the state. The state reported 727 new cases on Thursday. COVID-19 hospitalizations also are reaching record highs.

Alaska employers have expressed concerns that rising case numbers could lead to new restrictions on businesses, hamstringing restaurants, shops and other businesses still struggling to recover from last year’s pandemic-related shocks.

The state health department said the purpose of the grant was to create a vaccine-incentive campaign, said Heidi Hedberg, director of the Alaska Division of Public Health.

The Chamber set the parameters of the program with that guidance in mind, Capozzi said.

“We felt like in the spirit and purpose of the grant, we needed to make sure we focus the majority of funds to people who were not yet vaccinated, but we still wanted to give the chance for every single vaccinated Alaskan to have the opportunity to win,” Capozzi said.

Hedberg said this grant is a follow-up to the $1 million grant the state health department provided to the Alaska Chamber in the spring. It was distributed to local chambers that offered awards to incentivize vaccines, she said. That led to successful community-based programs, such as gift certificates provided at the summer Blueberry Arts festival in Ketchikan, Hedberg said.

The new program is another “evolution” in how the state must address the need to boost vaccination rates, Hedberg said.

“This is just another step toward meetings Alaskans where they’re at, to providing a motivator,” she said. “Some people just need to have that extra motivation.”

Hedberg said Alaskans that need treatment for everything from cancer to broken bones to preventative care are having care delayed because of the stress COVID-19 is putting on the health care system.

[Unvaccinated Americans shouldn’t travel during Labor Day weekend, CDC says]

“This is not required, but for those that are on the fence, I urge you today, go get vaccinated,” Hedberg said. “Our health care system is strapped. The delta variable is highly transmissible. It is ripping through our state and we need every Alaskan to get vaccinated.”

The state’s vaccine numbers have recently been rising. Unvaccinated people face a higher risk of severe infection, health officials say

Alaska’s vaccination rate, once first in the U.S., is now 32nd. As of Thursday, 61% of Alaskans 12 and older had received at least one vaccine dose, and 55% were considered fully vaccinated.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said previously vaccinated Alaskans can sign up for the program in its last week. The prize that previously vaccinated Alaskans can sign up for will be given in the last week of the program, but all vaccinated Alaskans can sign up for the program now.

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