West Virginia has made a bang with its promotion to encourage residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19: free guns.
What You Need To Know
- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced details Tuesday about the state’s vaccination incentive lottery
- In addition to cash prizes, scholarships and more, the Mountain State will give away customized hunting rifles and shotguns to fully vaccinated residents
- West Virginia is lagging behind the national average when it comes to vaccinations
- Some gun control advocates voiced disgust about West Virginia’s gun giveaway
Gov. Jim Justice announced details Tuesday about the state’s vaccination incentive lottery. In addition to cash prizes, scholarships and more, the Mountain State will give away customized hunting rifles and shotguns to fully vaccinated residents.
West Virginia will hold weekly drawings from June 20 through Aug. 4. The prizes for the initial drawing will include $1 million, two four-year college scholarships, two Ford F-150 pickup trucks, five lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, five rifles and five shotguns.
For the grand prize on Aug. 4, the state will award someone with $1.588 million and give $588,000 to a second-prize winner.
The 588,000 figure is in reference to Justice’s “Beat 588...Bad” campaign, which was named after the estimated 588,000 West Virginians who expressed hesitancy about getting vaccinated.
Justice, a Republican, said getting residents vaccinated is about saving lives as well as saving the state from the financial burdens of continued hospitalizations and prolonged vaccine clinics.
“The faster we get people across the finish line, the more lives we save,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. If the tab just keeps running, the cost is enormous. The hospitalizations are enormous. We have to get all of our folks across the finish line.”
Justice first announced the vaccination lottery Thursday, saying, “There’s going to be so many wonderful prizes, it’s absolutely going to blow your mind.”
West Virginia is lagging behind the national average when it comes to vaccinations. Nearly 41% of the state’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 34% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national averages are 50.8% for one dose and 40.9% for full vaccinations.
Meanwhile, after a brief rise last month, vaccination rates have continued to fall nationally. As of May 27 — the recent day data are available — the seven-day average for doses administered was about 1.2 million, down from a peak of 3.3 million on April 11.
Some gun control advocates voiced disgust about West Virginia’s gun giveaway.
“(T)his country is one sick joke,” tweeted the group March for Our Lives. “Only in America do people need guns as an incentive to get a vaccine that will save lives.”
West Virginia is not the first state to lean on guns as a vaccination incentive. Illinois set up a mobile vaccination site last month at a shooting range and gave away 100 free targets to anyone who was inoculated there.
Other states are also offering seven-figure cash giveaways and scholarships, as well as tickets to sporting events and amusement parks, gift cards, and Girl Scout cookies.