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In this Nov. 18, 2020 file photo, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine discusses the most recent data on Ohio's soaring coronavirus cases during a news briefing at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. DeWine is ready to address Ohioans in his fourth primetime speech about the state's progress against the coronavirus pandemic. DeWine planned his address for late Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

So now the federal government is buying shots.

No, not whiskey neat or a Kamikaze. And no, it's not a nationwide invitation to belly-up just yet.

It's only in Ohio — for now — and it's not even at a local watering hole.

On Wednesday, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the Buckeye State is going to spend at least $6 million in federal money to try to incentivize Ohioans to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Starting May 26, there will be five weekly drawings from the state voter roles, and the first lucky individual each week who is vaccinated will win $1 million. The state will also hold five lotteries for residents 17-and-under who get vaccinated. Their prize? A full four-year scholarship — room and board included — to any Ohio university.

DeWine told reporters he expects folks to say he's "crazy." His rationale is that the "real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19."

Hey, anything can be politicized these days, and COVID-19 vaccination is right in there. It's likely easier to make change for $100 in dimes than to make change in folks' minds these days about getting the shot(s).

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger understands the frustrations of leaders everywhere who have an oversupply of the vaccine and an underwhelming number of folks lined up for it.

"We've had plenty [of the vaccine] for some time now," Coppinger said Thursday, a day after his emotional statements to the Hamilton County Commission about the slowing numbers of vaccinations here. "And 12 and older vaccines started [effective Friday]."

Coppinger said roughly a third of Hamilton County citizens have been fully vaccinated, and a little more than 39% have received at least one shot to date.

Ohio's $6 million idea is just the latest effort to incentivize lagging national interest in the shot.

Target is offering $5 coupons for those who get vaccinated in CVS pharmacies in Target stores.

Alabama is working with Talladega Superspeedway to give free vaccines at the famed NASCAR track, and those 16-or-older who participate Saturday will get to take two laps around the track.

New York is offering free, seven-day MetroCards to those getting vaccinated at a participating subway. (That's subway as in station, not Subway as in footlong.)

In Connecticut, participating restaurants are giving away free drinks — adult or non-alcoholic — with a food purchase to those who can prove they have been vaccinated. That's shots for shots for real.

There are more, of course, but those are private companies or state-funded; Ohio is using federal dollars.

Granted, in the current administration getting federal funds is as commonplace as getting a brain freeze during a Baskin-Robbins bender, but still.

While the ethics of giving away taxpayer dollars for vaccines certainly could be debated — never mind the big-picture responsibility of the "spend it if you got it" mentality — maybe we should debate the wisdom of the plan.

Not whether they should, but whether should they do it DeWine's way.

Because if you have $6 million in federal money to find ways to get people shots, I wonder if giving, say, $50 to the next 120,000 who get vaccinated would be a better incentive than the lottery system. Who knows, and if this proves overwhelming successful, it assuredly will be emulated.

"I would think you would want to [incentivize] as many as you could to get it," Coppinger said about the options to draw more folks to get the shots. "I understand trying to incentivize it, but hope it doesn't come to that here."

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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