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Gov. Mike Parson Tempts Missourians With $10,000 COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery

Governor Mike Parson speaking at a news conference.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Gov. Mike Parson speaks at Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in April, where COVID-19 vaccinations were being administered.

Statewide initiatives to ramp up vaccinations are mounting as Missouri sees its highest rate of new daily COVID-19 cases since January.

As the delta variant of COVID-19 ravages through Missouri’s mostly non-vaccinated population, Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday announced a $10,000 lottery for people who get their shots.

Parson also said the “MO VIP” program aimed at jumpstarting the state’s stalled inoculation effort could give people $25 to get vaccinated against the killer virus.

State officials say just 40% of residents are fully vaccinated. The average number of new COVID-19 cases in Missouri also now exceeds more than 2,000 a day, double the rate from two weeks ago.

Vaccines have shown robust protection against the new strain. Nearly all the new hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the state have been among people who’ve not been vaccinated.

“While the delta strain is more contagious, the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective against it,” Parson said.

Parson said the state will partner with the Missouri Lottery to distribute the rewards across three separate categories: red, white and blue.

The red category will include people 18 and older who received at least one vaccine dose after July 21. The white category includes adults who received at least one dose before July 21. The blue category includes minors who've gotten their shot.

The first drawing will kick off on Aug. 13 and continue every two weeks until Oct 8. A total of 900 Missourians will be selected as winners.

As part of the vaccine initiative, local public health agencies will be given funding to provide $25 for each individual who chooses to get vaccinated.

Parson has previously stated that he’s not a huge fan of offering people financial incentives. But he said at Wednesday’s press conference that he wanted to give residents every opportunity to get their shots.

“We’re probably putting everything in there that we can do in both formats of incentive,” Parson said. “So we’re going to have everything on the table and see if it works.”

Robert Knodell, Parson’s deputy chief of staff and acting Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the lottery will be paid for with state and other federal funds. He said the state has been in conversation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine its guidelines and rules for incentive programs.

Parson also introduced Donald G. Kauerauf as the new DHSS director.

According to the governor’s office, Kauerauf has more than 30 years of experience in state government and served as the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2016 to 2018. He was most recently selected to chair the Illinois Terrorism Task Force.

Knodell has served as acting director since Dr. Randall Williams resigned in April. Kauerauf will take over as director on Sept. 1.

A Faith-based Approach

Meantime, a coalition of more than 200 Missouri ministers and pastors announced a campaign on Wednesday aimed at urging fellow Christians to get their shots.

Word&Way, the Jefferson City-based magazine leading the effort, said it’s aiming to address the vaccine hesitancy prevalent among some Christian groups.

According to a study from the Public Religion Research Institute, 47% of white evangelical Protestants who regularly attend church and are vaccine-hesitant say a faith-based approach would make them more likely to get vaccinated. One-third of Black Protestants and Hispanic Americans who are vaccine-hesitant say faith-based approaches would make them more likely to get their shot.

The Rev. Darron Edwards, lead pastor of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, said getting vaccinated follows a core teaching of Christianity to “love your neighbor.”

“What medically may not have shaken me, scientifically may have not moved me, theologically — I was embraced,” Edwards said. “When we’re asked to wear a mask or we’re asked to receive a vaccine, to me, that’s caring for our communities.”

Edwards said the decision to get his shot was a “no-brainer” when he saw how the virus impacted disadvantaged communities, and that children under 12 are still not eligible for a vaccine.

The group said it plans to launch a paid media campaign across the state in the coming weeks to promote its message.

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