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Lincoln Community Hospital registered nurse Deanne Kahler of Hugo draws a Moderna covid-19 vaccine dose during a vaccination clinic at the hospital in Hugo on Wednesday, Feb. 24 2021. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

You can gamble on contracting COVID-19 or you can get vaccinated and enter a chance to win $1 million.

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday unveiled the Colorado Comeback Cash Vaccine Drive, a coronavirus vaccine sweepstakes program aimed at boosting the state’s plateauing inoculation rates, especially in parts of the state where the disease is still raging. 

There will be five, $1 million drawings with winners announced on consecutive Fridays starting June 4. (The final announcement is on a Wednesday.) There will be one winner each week. People cannot win twice.

Polis estimates that there is a 1 in 500,000 chance of winning the sweepstakes. About 2.5 million Coloradans — or about 59% of the state’s population — had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday.

“If you have been delaying plans to get vaccinated or are still on the fence, now is the time to swing big. It could transform your life,” Polis said. “This is $1 million, cash in the barrel that you can use today. Buy a new home. Take that vacation. Take six months off. Do whatever you like. One million dollars goes a long way.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announces a $5 million sweepstakes for people who are vaccinated against COVID-19. He was speaking at the governor’s mansion in Denver on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Here’s how it will work: Everyone who has received at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Colorado and is a resident will be eligible for the prize. People should receive at least one vaccine dose by June 30 to be entered into the last drawing on July 7, which is a Wednesday.

To be entered into the first drawing, people should get vaccinated by June 1. Getting fully vaccinated multiple times would not increase someone’s chances of winning.

The drawing will be handled by the Colorado Lottery, and winners will be contacted and asked if their personal health information can be used to award them the prize. State officials know who is inoculated because of the Colorado Immunization Information System.

Winners can decline to claim their prize, “but you’d be pretty foolish not to,” Polis said.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.


The program mimics a nearly identical “Vax-a-Million” initiative in Ohio. That state saw a surge in vaccinations after its governor announced a plan to offer five $1 million drawings for those who have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 2.7 million people have signed up for Ohio’s vaccine giveaway. 

Several other states have tried to replicate Ohio’s success, including New York and Maryland.

Colorado consulted with Ohio as it sought to launch its own vaccine sweepstakes initiative. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office also helped the Polis administration form the program.

Colorado’s initiative is explicitly not a lottery, because a lottery is something you buy into. It’s a sweepstakes — or something you enter into.

The award money is coming from the CARES Act, the federal coronavirus stimulus bill passed in March 2020.

“This is money that would have otherwise gone toward advertising and marketing,” Polis said. “We feel this compliments some of the advertising and outreach that we’re doing and will generate even more interest in the vaccine than if we had simple spent this money on television commercials.”

Coloradans must be at least 18 years old at the time they win the sweepstakes to be eligible. The winnings are subject to taxes.

Jennifer Anderson, deputy executive director of the Colorado Lottery, said all vaccine providers in the state have to provide information to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on who they’ve vaccinated, including their phone numbers and addresses. She expressed confidence that anyone who has been inoculated will automatically be entered into the sweepstakes.

A random number will be attached to each vaccinated person through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Lottery will select the winning number.

A scholarship program is being set up for Coloradans ages 12 to 17 who are vaccinated.

An estimated 70% to 80% of Coloradans must be vaccinated in order for the state to reach herd immunity.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....