With the Delta variant chomping through southwest Missouri, Governor Mike Parson has unveiled a new "Red, White and Blue" incentive program to get more jabs in arms — with a chance to win $10,000.
The incentive giveaways are divided into three color-coded groups, meaning that even if you've already gotten your shots, you still have, well, a shot at the money: The red group consists of Missourians eighteen years of age and older who receive at least one dose after July 21, while those who have received at least one dose before July 21 are in the white group.
A blue group will consist of vaccinated Missourians ages twelve to seventeen who have gotten their doses at any time.
And this isn't just a one-off event: Five rounds of prizes will be announced by October 20, with the first round of drawings scheduled for August 13.
Entrants — including those who have already been vaccinated — must register for a drawing to be eligible for the prize money. According to the webpage for the giveaways, non-winning entries will be "rolled over" into the next drawing, so entrants will only have to register one time.
Each drawing will result in 80 cash winners in the red and white groups. In the blue group, each drawing features twenty winners — though, unlike the red and white groups, the prize money awarded to youth and teens will come in the form of a $10,000 college savings account.
The announcement comes little more than a month after Parson derided the efficacy of vaccine incentive programs, telling one reporter, "What it's going to be when it's the next thing somebody thinks is a crisis? Is the government going to come in and give you some sort of reward to do that?"
I asked @GovParsonMO today if the state is working on a plan to use incentives to help with vaccine hesitancy. Many other states are offering monetary prizes or gift cards. Parson said his office is discussing options. Around 46% of Missourians are fully vaccinated. #moleg #mogov pic.twitter.com/fc30uurdPD— Emily Manley (@EmilyManleyTV) June 15, 2021
But with a highly infectious variant of COVID devastating hospitals in Springfield and Greene County, Parson did not return to that particular flavor of whataboutism on Wednesday.
Instead, during his press conference announcing the state's new incentive program, the governor warned that "unvaccinated Missourians are the primary target of this new strain." About 47 percent of Missouri residents have received at least one dose, with 40 percent having completed vaccinations, according to the state's COVID data tracker.
Parson said he hoped the incentive program "will encourage Missourians to explore every opportunity available to get vaccinated" — but his remarks also reflected the challenge of reaching people whose beliefs are twisted up in the same misinformation being actively boosted by Republican lawmakers.
Parson did not call out members of his own party, but he did come close to rebuking the spread of delusional thinking that's undermined attempts to stop people dying from a preventable disease.
At the end of his remarks, Parson addressed Missourians directly. He asked them to trust their doctors and to seek out trusted health sources. "Turn off the clutter," he urged, "the doom-and-gloom scenarios that are out there across our state, all the misinformation out there, all the people who have a political agenda to talk about the virus."
For more information on getting a vaccine, registering for the drawing and a list of frequently asked questions, visit the MO VIP webpage.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]