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)

A Colorado mother of four has been chosen as the fifth and final $1 million coronavirus vaccine lottery winner, Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday.

Heidi Russell, a stay-at-home mother expressed her gratitude and shock after finding out about her win.

“This prize will be so helpful in raising four kids.,” Russell said. “When I told my daughter yesterday, her first comment was ‘Yes my college is paid for.”

The lottery campaign gave five Colorado residents $1 million in weekly drawings throughout June and into early July in an effort to promote COVID-19 vaccinations. Residents who received at least one dose from the recommended vaccine providers were automatically entered into the drawings.

Twenty-five Coloradans ages 12-17 also each received a $50,000 college scholarship as part of the vaccine sweepstakes. Winners can use the scholarships at the post-secondary educational institutions of their choice — including colleges and technical, occupational and credential programs both inside and outside Colorado.

In all, Colorado spent $6.25 million on the two vaccine efforts.

Polis, a Democrat, credited the lottery with motivating more people to get vaccinated that otherwise would not have agreed to the shots. He believes the $6.25 million more than paid for itself in terms of publicizing the availability of vaccines.


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.


But state data shows the lottery didn’t lead to an increase in vaccination rates.

The state gave out about 501,000 COVID-19 doses from May 26 to June 26, a 43% decrease from the total vaccines administered in the month before the announcement — which was nearly 1.2 million.

There were about 600,000 vaccine doses distributed between May 25 — the day the vaccine sweepstakes were announced — and Tuesday.

Polis said Colorado will continue working to get more people vaccinated. More than 70% of the state’s adults have received at least one dose. But the Democrat warned that convincing more people to get inoculated will be an uphill battle.

“We know it will be a lot harder to get from 70% to 80% than it was to get from 0% to 70%,” Polis said, adding that coronavirus infection rates are highest in parts of Colorado where vaccination rates are lowest.

Colorado Sun reporter Jesse Paul contributed to this report. The Associated Press contributed to this report.