COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine announced the Vax-2-School program on Thursday to incentivize younger Ohioans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccinated Ohioans between the ages of 12 to 25 are eligible to enter the program.
Five Ohioans in the age group could win a $100,000 scholarship to go towards college, career or technical education or job training. In addition, 50 $10,000 scholarships will be given away.
The program comes as DeWine says the first-dose vaccination rate among Ohioans ages 12 to 25 is just 46% in the state. In many communities, DeWine said that percentage is much lower.
“This age group has the most room to grew when it comes to getting vaccinated,” DeWine said.
In comparison, the state says the percentage of first doses for Ohioans over the age of 40 is 73%.
Since Aug. 15, which is when many schools started going back to class, DeWine said there have been about 42,000 cases of COVID-19 for Ohioans between the ages of 5 to 17.
DeWine said getting Ohioans who are 12 and older vaccinated is crucial in keeping kids in the classroom.
“Keeping our children in school, in person, is a top priority for this state. It is a top priority for parents. It is a top priority for our schools, for our teachers, for our administrators,” DeWine said.
The governor reiterated that vaccinated students do not have to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19.
Ohioans in the age group are eligible to enter the program as long as they’ve received their vaccination by the time they enter the drawing. Those who are already vaccinated are eligible to enter the program.
The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery will give more details about how the program will work in the next week.
In a separate incentive program, state employees have been able to receive $100 for getting vaccinated, and their spouses could receive $25 if they also get vaccinated. More than 9,700 employees and more than 3,900 spouses have participated in that to date.
DeWine launched the nationwide movement to offer financial incentives to individuals to receive the vaccine in May with Ohio's Vax-a-Million program, a lottery that awarded five $1 million prizes to adults and five full-ride college scholarships to children.
While the program generated excitement, it resulted in only a temporary rise in vaccinations before numbers fell again. In July, the governor suggested he might launch a more modest statewide incentive program, then put the idea on hold to urge the FDA to grant COVID-19 vaccinations full approval.
Just over 53% of Ohioans have started the vaccine process as of Thursday, or about 6.2 million people, according to the state Health Department. Just under 50% have completed the process, or about 5.8 million people.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 5,834.14 on Sept. 7 to 6,647.86 on Sept. 21, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Nearly all of the approximately 18,600 people hospitalized with COVID-19 this year were not fully vaccinated, the governor said last month.