OLYMPIA — Washington’s military members and veterans are getting a COVID-19 vaccine lottery of their own, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.
That lottery will begin July 20 and include two weekly drawings for $100,000, and then a drawing in the third week for $250,000. Other prizes will include $250 Amazon gift cards and $100 state parks gift cards.
In a news conference, Inslee called the lottery — which will be funded via federal aid dollars — an incentive program “for some of our most treasured Washingtonians.”
“We hope this will help … grandfathers, grandmothers, nieces, nephews, sons and daughters to think about getting this vaccine,” he said later. “I trust that it will.”
The incentive applies to members of the military and family members who got vaccinated through the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or the National Guard.
Active-duty military and their family members will have to sign up to be included in the lottery. That sign-up will be circulated by the U.S. Department of Defense, Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk wrote in an email, “so as not to advertise to those outside of the military.”
Meanwhile, vaccinated veterans and members of the National Guard won’t have to sign up. That’s because “Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Guard have agreed to give us random numbers that they have associated with vaccination records on their end,” Faulk wrote.
The announcement seeks to correct a wrinkle in the ongoing lottery announced by Inslee earlier this month. Those winners are chosen from the state’s immunization database.
But vaccination records for service members and veterans have been maintained through the federal government, so they weren’t included in that lottery — an obstacle that state officials acknowledged even as they rolled out the incentive.
Thursday’s announcement comes as Washington inches closer to vaccinating 70% of people 16 years old and up with at least one COVID-19 shot.
The governor has said state restrictions will lift on June 30, or whenever that mark is hit.
As of Thursday, 67.8% of Washingtonians 16 years or older have gotten at least one dose, according to the governor’s office. The office has said it doesn’t expect the 70% mark to be hit this week.
In the news conference, Inslee credited the lottery with stemming a drop-off in the pace of vaccinations that had been seen earlier this spring.
“That’s good news because we want to increase our vaccination rate,” he said.
In another attempt to boost vaccination numbers, Inslee and state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler Thursday also announced an incentive for medical providers to contact patients who haven’t gotten the vaccine.
An emergency order by Kreidler will let those providers bill insurance companies for proactively reaching out to patients who haven’t gotten their doses.
That move is an attempt to involve doctors and nurses regularly engaged in people’s health care, and who may be more trusted by those who haven’t been vaccinated.
During the news conference, Kreidler said the order would help doctors and other health-care professionals “do the kind of outreach that’s going to be the most positive” and effective.
With California this week fully reopening, Washington is one of a few states still imposing wide-scale restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
Despite newer variants of COVID-19 spreading around the world, Inslee said he “just can’t foresee” not reopening Washington by the end of the month. Cases and hospitalizations have consistently fallen over the last few weeks, he said.