In its first month, Chattanooga's Vax 4 Cash sweepstakes has drawn more than 17,000 locals hopeful to win $1,000 and a month of free city parking for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
In August, Mayor Tim Kelly announced the sweepstakes, which awards $1,000 - and every week so far, an additional prize ranging from spa treatments to a pair of roundtrip airline tickets - for one fully vaccinated resident of Hamilton County.
(READ MORE: Chattanooga will give a county resident $1,000 in weekly vaccine sweepstakes)
The program designed to incentivize vaccines has drawn "around 17,500" participants since its inception Aug. 5., according to the mayor's office.
So far, the city has named three weekly winners. Linda Davis, 73, of Hixson, won the first week, taking home $1,000 and a pair of roundtrip airline tickets to the destination of her choice.
Davis told the Times Free Press on Saturday that she didn't expect to win the sweepstakes but had gotten the vaccine as early as she was able after losing a good friend and struggling to get medical treatment for pneumonia during the 2020 surge of the virus.
Sept. 9: 90-minute facial and skincare kit courtesy of Pure Face CareSept. 16: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateSept. 23: $15 Chattery gift card, t-shirt, and tote bagSept. 30: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateOct. 7: No additional prize determined yetOct. 14: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateOct. 21: No additional prize determined yetOct. 28: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateNov. 4: 2 VIP 2022 Moon River TicketsNov. 11: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateNov. 18: No additional prize determined yetNov. 25: Holiday, no drawing this weekDec. 2: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateDec. 9: No additional prize determined yetDec. 16: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateDec. 23: Holiday, no drawing this weekDec. 30: Holiday, no drawing this weekJan. 6: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificateJan. 13: No additional prize determined yetJan. 20: $100 Chattanooga Safety Products gift certificate
"I have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and my mom is 90 years old," Davis said. "And we were basically just having to stay away, but we wanted to be able to see the family, so I got the vaccine as soon as I could for my age."
Similarly, Chattanoogan Caleb Dorsey, 30, who won the drawing last week, taking home $1,000 and a $100 credit to Chattanooga Safety Products, said it was an easy decision for him.
"Really there wasn't a lot of deliberation involved in my decision. It was just the smart thing to do. That's probably not very interesting, but it's the truth," he said. "The benefits of being protected against illness and having to miss work and make no money outweighed the small, at some times almost non-existent chances of potential vaccine side effects, which seems to be what most people who are refusing to be vaccinated are worried about. I figured that if my grandmother could get vaccinated with no problem, I could too. "
Last week's winner, James Lewis from Hixson, told the mayor's office he loves his elderly parents and wanted to get vaccinated to keep them safe when he's around them. His mother got COVID-19 and wound up at the emergency room.
"It isn't just protection for you, it's protection for the people around you," Lewis said. "You're not doing it just for yourself."
Davis said she hopes her fellow citizens will take the vaccine - not just for the chance at $1,000.
"Everyone should get it," Davis said. "Right now, it's the most important thing they can do in their life, not only their life, but the lives of people they're around and their family."
Fully vaccinated residents of Hamilton County over 18 years old can enter the sweepstakes online at sweepstakes.chattanooga.gov or in person at the Chattanooga Public Library.
To encourage new vaccine takers, the city will also give a separate $500 prize to someone who gets a first shot in the first six weeks of the Vax 4 Cash program.
The sweepstakes is currently funded to run for 20 weeks.
Businesses that wish to donate a prize for the sweepstakes can contact the mayor's office at 423-643-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.