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A Nurse Won The Michigan Vaccine Lottery After Facing The Virus From The Frontline

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Michigan is one of a number of states holding lottery drawings with cash prizes and scholarships for people who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. As Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta reports, one of the recent winners has quite a poignant story to tell.

RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: Among the first winners was Amber Berger, who's a registered nurse. Berger says she didn't know about the lottery when she got her first shot. She says her husband was sick with COVID. A co-worker is still suffering from the effects. And Berger says what she witnessed on the job was a key factor.

AMBER BERGER: I saw so many horrific things just working in the COVID units with it. I understand that it's a scary thing to let something new into your body, but if it's going to help protect one person and - as well as yourself and your family, why not do it?

PLUTA: The prizes range from $50,000 to $2 million. College scholarships valued at $55,000 are offered in an effort to reach younger people 12 to 17 years old and their parents. This is after Governor Gretchen Whitmer's controversial emergency orders that restricted gatherings and activities have been the target of lawsuits and a petition campaign to rein in her powers. Also, the surge of early enthusiasm among people eager to get vaccinated appears to have ebbed. The latest numbers show Michigan's vaccination rate at 62.5%. The goal is to have 70% of Michiganders 16 and older get at least one COVID-19 shot. Governor Whitmer says the delta variant makes the situation urgent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRETCHEN WHITMER: I know it's tempting to celebrate right now because we have been moving forward. If you're (ph) not gotten your shot yet, the virus is still a very real threat to you.

PLUTA: The results of vaccine lotteries appear to be mixed. And there's also a critical unknown factor - that is what will happen to vaccination rates once the contests end. University of Michigan Health Professor Ken Resnicow says that's what he's keeping an eye on.

KEN RESNICOW: But I don't think there's any evidence yet of harm, where we see the states that have some form of lottery or prize having a rapid deceleration, that things got worse.

PLUTA: At least 20 U.S. states and territories are using vaccine lotteries. The Michigan drawings started last week and continue through August 3.

For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.