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Vax Nevada Days giving away $5M in cash, prizes for vaccinated residents

Updated June 17, 2021 - 8:36 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday that the state would be giving away $5 million in cash, college tuition and other prizes to entice more Nevadans to get a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“Now you have 5 million more reasons for Nevadans to step up and get protected against COVID-19,” Sisolak said during a late afternoon news conference at Allegiant Stadium, where across the football field a vaccination clinic was taking place.

With its announcement of the “Vax Nevada Days” program, Nevada joins a growing number of states offering big prizes to bolster vaccination rates at a time when interest in getting a shot is dwindling across the country.

On eight consecutive Thursdays beginning July 8, the state will conduct random drawings to determine the winners, with the grand prize of $1 million to be handed out Aug. 26.

Nevadans who have received at least one dose of vaccine in the state since the December start of the vaccine rollout will automatically be entered into the drawing. For those 18 or older, there are 149 cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $250,0000, as well as the $1 million prize.

For those ages 12 to 17, there are 135 college saving accounts for post-secondary education ranging in value from $5,000 to $50,000, totalling $1.5 million. For all Nevadans, there are prizes of state park annual entrance permits and state fishing licenses.

The program is being funded through federal coronavirus relief money, the governor said. It is being administered in conjunction with nonprofit Immunize Nevada and International Game Technology.

IGT is donating its time and technology to ensure that drawings are conducted in a fair and legal manner, according to state officials.

Winners will be randomly selected from a list of Nevada residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine recorded in the Nevada WebIZ system for tracking vaccinations. A unique number will be assigned to each vaccination record by the state immunization program, and those numbers will be provided to IGT, which will use computerized tools to randomly select the winners.

“Obviously, with no lottery in Nevada, IGT is pleased to contribute our people and expertise to this important public health initiative,” Scott Gunn, the company’s senior vice president of corporate public affairs, said at the news conference.

Lotteries, long opposed by the state’s gaming industry, are prohibited under Nevada’s constitution. The state doesn’t consider the giveaway a lottery, the governor said, because residents aren’t required to pay to participate.

“You know, we got an opinion from my counsel, from the attorney general counsel, from the gaming control board’s counsel, that this is something that we’re allowed to do,” Sisolak said.

State officials said they are working to ensure that military members, veterans and their family members in Nevada who were vaccinated through the federal program also can participate in the giveaway.

Not everyone in the state who received a dose of vaccine is eligible for prizes, including employees of the state immunization program, the governor’s office, employees of technology vendors assisting with the program, along with the immediate family members of these groups.

Fifty-one percent of Nevada residents 12 and older, the population eligible for vaccination, have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Forty-three percent have gotten either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I’d like to get to 70 percent,” Sisolak said. “Heck, I’d like to get to 90 percent. But we understand as you get higher up in the percentiles, it’s difficult to get some people vaccinated,” especially in a state with historically low vaccination rates.

“We’re doing everything we can, every incentive possible,” the governor said.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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