News Coronavirus The biggest prizes from the world’s COVID vaccine lotteries
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The biggest prizes from the world’s COVID vaccine lotteries

COVID-19 lottery Joanne Zhu
Joanne Zhu won $1 million as part of an Australian vaccination initiative on Sunday. Photo: Twitter/Today
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A fully vaccinated Sydney woman has become an instant millionaire after she won a COVID-19 vaccine lottery, joining a growing list of global winners to earn prizes for getting double vaccinated.

Joanne Zhu was announced as the winner of the Million Dollar Vax campaign on Sunday, pocketing $1 million for getting vaccinated.

More than 2.7 million Australians registered for their chance to win, but it was 25-year-old Ms Zhu who claimed the top prize.

“Am I dreaming? Is this real? I cannot believe it,” Ms Zhu said on Sunday, adding that she planned to spend a portion of her winnings on flying her family in China to Australia to visit her.

The Million Dollar Vax campaign was created by the Million Dollar Vax Alliance – a group of philanthropists and corporations that wanted to lift Australia’s national vaccination rates above 80 per cent.

That milestone has since been reached. And Ms Zhu is far from alone in benefiting financially from inoculating herself against COVID-19.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest – and strangest – prizes offered around the world for getting vaccinated.

Big cash prizes for US residents, plus a hot lap

California Governor Gavin Newsom provided $US116.5 million ($156 million) for the state’s ‘Vax for the Win’ program. Photo: Getty

In the US, a number of state governments have turned to vaccine lotteries to boost vaccination rates.

The largest pot of prize money was in California.

The state’s ‘Vax for the Win’ program promised to pay out a total of $US116.5 million ($156 million) to lottery winners.

The top 10 prize winners took home $US1.5 million ($2 million) each.

Residents were automatically entered into the lottery when they received their second dose, with winners notified by officials from the California Department of Public Health.

The scheme was announced in May, a few days after Ohio became the first US state to announce a vaccine lottery.

People were eligible to enter the Ohio lottery if they had received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Every week for five weeks, the government gave out a cash prize of $US1 million ($1.3 million) to an eligible adult and a full scholarship to a public university to an under 18.

A string of states followed suit, including Alabama, Illinois and New York.

In Alabama, locals who got vaccinated were offered a free drive on the state’s iconic racetrack, the Talladega Superspeedway.

In Illinois, two winners were given the top cash prize of $US1 million in a vaccine lottery that handed out a total of $US10 million ($13.4 million).

In New York, vaccinated people were entered into a lottery with a top cash prize of $US5 million.

The lottery has 13 tiers of winners, with prizes ranging from $US20 ($27) to $US5 million ($6.7 million). But no winners have been announced yet.

Canada also handed out weekly draws for cash in August, with $CA2 million ($2.2 million) worth of prizes made available in Montreal.

COVID-19 lottery
Alabama residents were offered a free drive on the famous Talladega Superspeedway if they got vaccinated. Photo: Getty

Private plane parties and gold

Asian governments and businesses have also embraced financial incentives as a way to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

In Hong Kong, fully vaccinated residents were in with a chance of winning:

  • A one-bedroom apartment worth $US1.4 million
  • A private party on a new Cathay Pacific Airways Airbus
  • Gold bullion worth $HK1.1 million ($191,999).
COVID-19 lotter
One lucky draw in Hong Kong offered an apartment as its top prize. Photo: Getty

Meanwhile, on mainland China, Beijing ramped up its drive for greater vaccinations with incentives of free eggs, as well as store coupons and discounts.

Residents aged 60 years and above who had received their first shot were eligible for five ‘jin’ (2.5kg) of eggs, AP reported in April.

Europe’s small stomach for incentives

Most European countries have advocated for small carrots instead of large monetary prizes to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

In the UK, young people and their stomachs were the targets of vaccine bribes, with free rides on Uber, cinema tickets and fast food deliveries from Deliveroo used to boost vaccination rates.

Germans were offered a similar appeal, with free sausages at certain vaccine centres, while Romania provided mini kebabs for those still on the fence about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Greece provided $150 vouchers to people aged 18 to 25. And Sweden also opted for a simple cash incentive: 100 Swedish Krona ($15).