DENVER – Colorado will give away 25 scholarships of $50,000 each over the next month to students ages 12-17 who have already gotten their first vaccine shot as extra incentive for the youngest eligible Coloradans to get vaccinated.
Gov. Jared Polis announced the “Colorado Comeback Cash Scholarship” lottery program Wednesday in a news conference alongside the state department of higher education’s executive director.
It is the second vaccine-incentive program launched by Colorado using federal dollars earmarked for vaccine promotion and advertising.
The state is also offering $1 million each to five different Coloradans ages 18 and up who have gotten at least one vaccine dose, with the first winner expected to be announced on Friday.
Polis and Dr. Angie Paccione, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said the first five winners of the scholarships would be drawn next Monday and announced on Friday, June 11, and five more will be announced each week through Friday, July 9. Any children who get their first dose this week will be eligible for Monday's drawing, they said.
The scholarship money will go into a Colorado CollegeInvest 529 college savings account and can be put toward education expenses and tuition at occupational and trade schools, two- and four-year colleges and universities both in and out of state, Polis and Paccione said.
“This scholarship sends a clear message to our state that we need you for our Colorado comeback,” Paccione said, adding that the $50,000 scholarship amounts “still boggles my mind.”
Polis urged parents of children ages 12-17 to not put off getting their students vaccinated.
“We want them to be protected this summer and want them to have a chance to win,” he said.
Like the lottery program for vaccinated adults, children in the 12-17 age group who get their first Pfizer vaccine – the only available for that age group currently – would be automatically entered into the drawing because their vaccine record should be submitted to the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS).
The state said late last week that people vaccinated through the Department of Veterans Affairs had their vaccination records added to the CIIS. He said Wednesday that the state was continuing to work with the Department of Defense to get people vaccinated in its facilities added as well.
Polis said about 25% of eligible 12 to 17-year-olds had already received one vaccine dose. Among all eligible age groups, about 2.9 million Coloradans have received at least one dose.
The governor said that the incentive programs are meant to keep vaccine administration rates in the state from dropping off rapidly as the state reaches the point of vaccinating most people who were ready and willing to get it and gets into groups that have been waiting or hesitant.
“I think it’s so far having an impact,” he said. “It will have more of an impact once people see there are winners.”