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Kentucky Just Gave Away Its Final $1 Million Vaccination Prize, But Did It Work?

Karyn Czar

The state has named the third and final winner of its Shot-at-a-Million sweepstakes, meant to incentive Kentuckians to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Mary Mattingly of Louisville got the big news from Kentucky's first family over the phone, as she's currently traveling out of the state. She joined two other million dollar winners and a total of 15 young people who brought home full ride scholarships thanks to the vaccination campaign.

But the bigger question: Did the sweepstakes actually get more shots into arms? It depends on whom you ask.

Similar giveaways in other states produced mixed results, with the numbers hard to pin down. In Kentucky, the initial announcement of the program back in June coincided with a jump in vaccinations in the weeks immediately following, but few winners seemed to cite the lottery as their reason for rolling up their sleeves.

Still, Gov. Andy Beshear says he thinks the campaign did help stabilize a sliding vaccination rate, keeping a slump from continuing as predicted by vaccination rate modeling. It also kept the vaccine front and center.

"In this contest, at the very least it created tens of millions of dollars of publicity about the vaccine. That's the other reason you do one of these," Beshear said Friday.

GOP legislative leaders, who will have more say in setting pandemic policy in the coming months, have pointed to more modest local incentives as ways to boost the numbers. The governor noted those have been a staple in communities across the state since the vaccine was released, but he said their effectivness may be waning.

"Local incentives get the word out more, which is helpful. I do think we're to a point where incentives can only do so much to the populations that remain unvaccinated," Beshear added.

The most recent uptick in vaccinations in the state, however, appears to be less about incentives and more ties to increased caution in light of the Delta variant.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.