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Massachusetts announces final winners of VaxMillions Giveaway

"It was about motivating people to get the vaccine to protect your friends, neighbors, and loved ones."

Gov. Charlie Baker during a press conference in June to announce the state's vaccine lottery. Mass.gov

Last but certainly not least, a Leominster woman and a Conway high schooler are the fifth and final winners of the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway for residents who have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19.

State officials announced Thursday that Leominster resident Cynthia Thirath won the giveaway’s final $1 million cash prize.

In a press release, officials said that Thirath chose to get vaccinated to protect those around her and to encourage others to get vaccinated, and “plans to use her winnings to invest in her future.”

Gretchen Selva, a Conway resident entering her sophomore year this fall at Four River Charter Public School in Greenfield, won the final round’s $300,000 scholarship grant.

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Officials said Selva is passionate about music and has been playing the guitar for just over three years. She plans to attend a college focusing on music writing and production and has already started researching potential schools in the New England area, according to the press release.

“Gretchen received the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as she was eligible to protect herself, her family and to do her part in stopping the spread,” the release said.

With the five-week-long series of drawings now officially over, State Treasurer Deb Goldberg said that the VaxMillions Giveaway “was about more than winning a lottery.”

“It was about motivating people to get the vaccine to protect your friends, neighbors, and loved ones,” Goldberg, who chairs the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, which partnered with Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration to launch the effort, said in a statement Thursday.

More than 2.5 million of the state’s nearly 4.5 million fully vaccinated residents — including 167,000 residents ages 12 to 17 — signed up for the giveaway, which mirrored so-called vaccine lotteries in other states intended to incentivize residents to get the shots.

Did it work? That part is less clear.

Massachusetts already had (and continues to have) one of the country’s highest vaccination rates when the effort was launched on June 15.

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According to Baker’s office, over 318,000 individuals in Massachusetts got their first dose of the vaccine since then. And another 122,000 or so got their already-scheduled second doses during that period.

“This did in fact encourage thousands who were not yet vaccinated, and at the end of the day that is a win/win for everyone,” Goldberg said Thursday.

However, while the contest offered significantly better odds to win the jackpot than traditional lotteries, the rate of vaccinations continued its downward trend in the weeks after the VaxMillions Giveaway was announced.

The number of weekly vaccinations in Massachusetts has ticked up in recent weeks, amid the rise of the delta variant and increasing vaccine requirements.

In a statement Thursday, Baker credited Massachusetts’s high vaccination rate to “our residents stepping up and getting vaccinated.”

According to Baker’s office, more than 5 million of the state’s roughly 7 million residents have gotten at least one dose. That figure far surpasses the state’s initial goal of vaccinating 4.1 million people. But as Baker said back in June, they’re always aiming higher.

“More,” he said at the time, when asked about a new goal. “The new number is more.”

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