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Second set of North Carolina COVID vaccine lottery winners announced

By Bryan Anderson, Associated Press/Report for America

North Carolina health officials on Thursday unveiled the state’s latest recipients of a $1 million cash prize and $125,000 college scholarship for getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Natalie Everett of Pineville won the $1 million before taxes, while Jessica Klima, a 16-year-old high school student and Greensboro resident, earned the $125,000 scholarship.

The lottery is open to nearly all residents who have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot. Two more contests will be held on July 21 and Aug. 4, with winners to be announced publicly the week after the drawings.

“I’m excited, grateful and it’s just very overwhelming,” Everett said during a Thursday news conference.

Kilma, who wants to become a physical therapist, said her parents jumped up and down with excitement after learning she won.

North Carolina’s first lottery winners, Shelly Wyramon and Vania Martinez, were identified last month.

Since the state announced on June 10 that it would give out $1 million each to four vaccinated adults and a $125,000 scholarship to residents aged 12 to 17, more than 225,000 residents have come in for a first dose.

Last week, demand for first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine reached its lowest level since the week of Dec. 14, 2020, when shots were just becoming available and supplies were severely limited.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, said similar lotteries in other states, including Ohio, have boosted vaccine participation.

“We continue to focus on many ways to reach folks,” Cohen said.

Unvaccinated adults who come in for a shot at a participating vaccination site qualify for a $25 cash card, which comes in the form of a prepaid Mastercard. Adults who drive someone to get their first dose can also get $25.

North Carolina was fairly late to the game in offering financial perks and continues to lag in vaccine administration. Of the 23 states run by a Democratic governor, North Carolina is the third worst in vaccines administered per capita.

As of Monday, the state had more than 2.1 million vaccine doses sitting on shelves waiting for residents to take. Since December, state providers have either returned or refused to accept more than 4.2 million shots from the federal government due to lack of demand.

Cohen, who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is calling on individuals who got the Pfizer, Moderna or J&J vaccines to explain to loved ones why they chose to get the shot. Among the perks is not having to wear a mask, even in communities where fewer people are vaccinated and spread of the more lethal delta variant is higher.

“I do feel protected from COVID, but this is where we all need to work together,” Cohen said. “The more people in North Carolina that get vaccinated, it protects each other.”

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