The 22-year-old who won $1 million in Ohio's vaccine lottery said her parents thought it was a joke
  • Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery will run for 5 weeks; each week a vaccinated resident will win $1 million.
  • Abbigail Bugenske said her parents thought it was a prank when her name was called.
  • Bugenske plans to spend the money on a new car and give some to charity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The 22-year-old won Ohio’s $1 million Vax-a-Million lottery, an incentive for people to get vaccinated in order to be eligible for the jackpot, said she had to double-check it wasn’t a prank.

Abbigail Bugenske said that, when she found out, she immediately started yelling about winning the money.

“My parents told me to calm down and make sure it wasn’t a prank before I really started freaking out,” she said in a press interview after the win was formally announced on Thursday.

“I could see notifications coming up of people starting to follow me on Instagram and Facebook and messaged me and I think that was it for me. I knew that my name had actually been announced and I had actually won the Vax-a-Million,” Bugenske said.

Bugenske was one of more than 2.7 million vaccinated Ohioans who signed up to the scheme, which consists of five lottery draws, spread over five weeks. Each week, a vaccinated Ohio resident will win $1 million. The lottery is open to anyone over the age of 12 who has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Gov. Mike DeWine, who launched the lottery on May 12 to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 shot, rang Bugenske to tell her the news. Bugenske was in the car at the time, on a four-hour drive from her home-town near Cincinnati to Cleveland to buy a second-hand car.

DeWine said the administration was excited that the scheme had “inspired so many Ohioans to get vaccinated”. 

Bugenske said it “was a pretty easy decision to go and get the vaccine as fast as I could,” adding: “I would encourage anyone to get the vaccine. If winning $1 million isn’t enough, I don’t know what would be.” (Bugenske got her shot before the scheme was announced.)

Ohio is one of several states offering a cash prize incentive for getting vaccinated. California launched a $116.5 million lottery on Thursday, the largest jackpot of any state.

Since the scheme was announced earlier this month, the number of over-16s getting vaccinated in the state increased by 33%, according to an AP news analysis. 

However, rates waned over time. The same AP news review found that vaccination rates were still well below figures from April and March. And overall, Ohio’s vaccination rates are below the national average of 40%  — roughly 36% of people in Ohio are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

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