Top South Carolina Democrat Wants $1M Vaccine Lottery Prize

COLUMBIA, S.C. — One of South Carolina’s top Democratic lawmakers wants the state to use some of its COVID-19 relief money to offer $1 million prizes to people who get vaccinated for the disease, similar to a program in Ohio.

That type of program might get South Carolina, where just 36% of residents are fully vaccinated, out of the bottom 10 in the percentage of residents who have completed their COVID-19 immunizations, House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said.

“I think the message of the State of South Carolina should be clear. Get vaccinated: protect yourself, protect those around you, and you just might win a million dollars,” the Columbia Democrat said in a statement.

Ohio is giving away five $1 million prizes to adults who have been vaccinated and a college scholarship to five children ages 12 to 17 who get their shots. Ohio saw an increase in vaccinations after announcing the prizes.

More than 2.7 million adults signed up for the $1 million prize and more than 104,000 children entered the drawing for the college scholarship, which includes tuition, room and board, and books.

South Carolina senators considered more modest incentives during last month’s budget debate, including a $250 scholarship to college students who get vaccinated or $100 for the first 500,000 people to get the COVID-19 shot.

Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto compared it to how crazy people get when prizes worth only several dollars are offered at sporting events.

“When they drop the things at the ball games, people jump all over themselves to get a Chick-fil-A sandwich gift card,” said Hutto, a Democrat from Orangeburg.

Both proposals failed with minimal support from the Republican majority.

The House is considering changes to the state budget next month and Rutherford is on the House Ways and Means Committee, which will discuss the spending plan next week.