Jin Yu Li had planned on getting vaccinated against COVID-19 — at some point. Then the chance to win hundreds of thousands of dollars pushed him over the edge and was enough for the 25-year-old to roll up his sleeve.
“I have to get vaccinated eventually. Why not do it when the incentive is in place?” Li said after getting his first jab Wednesday at the city of Seattle’s vaccination clinic in Rainier Beach.
Li and his younger brother Alan, who also received his first dose, waited with their fully vaccinated father, Jason, in a nearly empty area under a white tent along the shore of Lake Washington after their shots.
The brothers joined the roughly 4 million other Washingtonians who have received at least one dose of vaccine and are automatically entered into Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine prize lottery announced last week.
The first round of winners was notified Wednesday. A Washington’s Lottery spokesperson said the $250,000 winner had been reached and planned to claim the prize on Thursday. The drawings take place every Tuesday in June. The drawing for the big jackpot of $1 million is July 13.
Seattle Fire Department Capt. Melissa Woosley said earlier Wednesday that the Rainier Beach site might get 200 people, with many of those coming back for their second dose of vaccine.
The state’s lottery program is intended to encourage those who have yet to get their shots, with the aim of pushing the state to its goal of vaccinating at least 70% of residents 16 and older. Reaching that threshold could trigger a statewide reopening ahead of the planned June 30 reopening. Currently, 63.9% of residents 16 and older have gotten at least one dose.
It’s too early to tell if the lottery incentives have had the desired effect, said Lacy Fehrenbach, the state Department of Health’s deputy secretary for COVID-19 response, at a news briefing Wednesday morning.
She said she’s heard anecdotally that clinics are full and bookings are up. The numbers should be in by next week, the six-month anniversary of the state’s vaccine launch.
The lottery was news to Xavier Robinson. The 17-year-old Seattle resident received his first dose of vaccine at the Rainier Beach site Wednesday because he wants to keep his family safe.
“I don’t want my family to get infected,” he said. “I just want this virus to die sooner rather than later.”
If you’ve been stressing out about whether you are entered in the vaccine lottery, DOH has good news. Wednesday morning, the agency reported that 3.9 million names had been successfully entered into the lottery. The state also reported that 3.9 million Washington residents have been vaccinated.
The department is also working to address problems with the MyIR website, a site operated by a vendor, where Washingtonians can look up their vaccine records to confirm they’re eligible for the lottery.
The department also offered guidance for those whose vaccine records weren’t in the state database. This group includes veterans, military personnel and others who received shots through federal institutions that do not share data with the state. In these cases, DOH is encouraging those who’ve been vaccinated to show their documents to their doctors, who can submit the information to the state on patients’ behalf.
Dr. Umair Shah, state secretary of health, said that in response to frustrations with the online system, the department is operating a fully staffed helpline: 833-829-4357.