'Icing on the cake:' One Washingtonian is $250k richer for getting the COVID vaccine

On Thursday, the first winner of Washington's "Shot of a Lifetime" lottery claimed their $250,000 prize.

The lottery runs until June 30 and features a series of giveaways that includes lottery drawings totaling $2 million, college tuition assistance, airline tickets and game systems. The purpose is to give Washingtonians an incentive to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The first winner, only identified as Lance R., claimed their prize in one of the Lottery's regional offices. 

At this time, Lance does not wish to be publicly interviewed, but issued the following statement: 

"I got lucky.

Mainly, I was lucky that I didn't get hit with COVID before the vaccines were developed and available. Millions around the world haven't had such good luck.

Getting the phone call yesterday that I won the big prize in this week's Washington vaccine lottery is also all about luck. Icing on the cake. Totally unexpected.

But if you haven't gotten vaccinated yet, especially when it is so easy to do now, you're taking a very high risk gamble. You can't count on your luck holding out. Besides, the shot is free.

There will be 3 more lucky Washington winners of this lottery over the next 3 weeks, and then on July 13, someone who is vaccinated will be even luckier than I am today and win a million dollars. Just for doing the right thing.

For yourself, for those who care for you, and for the whole community that we're all a part of, let's get ourselves vaccinated. To top it off, you might just win a lot of money." 

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, 129 of the 248 total merchandise prizes have been claimed. 

The prizes claimed are: 42 Xboxes, 3 Nintendo Switches, 9 Amazon Echo Dots, 60 Discover Passes, 9 State Parks Gift Cards, and 6 Fish & Wildlife Wild Bucks. Outreach continues to the people whose prizes are still unclaimed.

DOH has issued special phones to the officials making calls to winners. Most have a 253 area code and will often show a Fife, Washington, location on the screen when calling. One of the numbers is a 564 area code, the newest Western Washington area code. People receiving calls from numbers like these should answer the calls and/or check any voicemails left by those callers. 

Officials may also attempt to text message winners if phone calls and emails fail to reach them. This is a final outreach option after calling and emailing (if an email address is on file). These texts would come from the same 253 or 564 area codes as the calls. 

Washington joins several other states — including California, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon — that have already created lotteries in hopes of increasing the pace of vaccination, which has slowed in recent weeks.

RELATED: Washington launches vaccine lottery with $2 million cash prizes, tuition, flights

The state Lottery will hold two drawings a week for four weeks, one for adults 18 and older and another for those age 12-17. The lottery cash prize will start out with a weekly prize of $250,000 through the end of June. On July 13, a final $1 million drawing will be held.

In addition, the state’s public four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges will receive nearly $1 million to run their own drawing for free tuition and expenses for vaccinated students. The state Lottery will also do drawings to offer 30 prizes of one-year of tuition college credits to 12-17 year olds through the state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program, with the credits going directly to the students’ families.

Game systems are also up for grabs during the month-long program, with Microsoft giving away 300 Xbox and Game Pass consoles to vaccinated individuals, and Nintendo donating 20 Nintendo Switches, each coming with one Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game. Google will give away 25 Google Nests and Amazon will be giving away 40 Echo Dots.

Proof of Washington residency is required to claim a prize. Employees of the governor’s office, the state lottery and the Department of Health employees — and their households — are not eligible for the prizes.

For residents who received vaccines through Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense, their information hasn’t been shared with the state, but state officials said they are working to ensure that those who are vaccinated but not in the state database will be able to opt in for the incentive program.

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