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Washington launches COVID-19 vaccine incentive for military members, veterans

Gov. Inslee also announced a new incentive for medical providers to proactively reach out to patients who have not received their COVID-19 vaccine yet.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday during a press conference that Washington is launching a new COVID-19 vaccine incentive called “A Heroes Thanks” for the state’s military members and veterans.

The new incentive comes just two weeks after the state launched the “Shot of a Lifetime” lottery for all Washington residents who have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But the state's military and anyone who had received their vaccine through the military were not eligible for that original lottery because the state did not have access to the federal government's vaccination data, according to Inslee. 

Staff Sgt. Chazz Newbill found out about the new lottery game moments after getting his second vaccine at a clinic on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Thursday.

"I feel pretty good about it," said Newbill.

He said one of the reasons he was getting the vaccine to set a good example for the soldiers he supervises.

Newbill thought the chance at winning cash might convince skeptics in the military to get vaccinated.

”I feel like money can help anybody convince anything," said Newbill, "My wife is not vaccinated, so this is a convincing point with her too."

The new promotion will apply to military, military staff, their family members and veterans who were vaccinated through the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs or the National Guard.

“A Heroes Thanks” is separate from the state’s other vaccine incentives. There will be one drawing per week for three weeks beginning on July 20, Inslee’s office said. There will be cash prizes of $100,000, $250 Amazon gift cards and $100 state park gift cards up for grabs.

Then, on the third week, there will be a final $250,000 cash prize.

Inslee also announced a new incentive for medical providers that is being offered through an emergency order from Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

The order lets medical providers bill insurance companies for reaching out to patients who have not been vaccinated.

The new incentives come just two days after Inslee said that the state will fully reopen on June 30 whether the population hits the 70% vaccination goal by then or not.

“We all knew that we were going to open on June 30. We are very close. We are just on the second-yard line. No matter what happens, we are going to open on June 30,” he said on Tuesday in Vancouver.

The latest data on the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) website shows just over 67% of residents 16 years or older have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, the state has seen nearly 410,000 confirmed cases and 5,801 deaths as a result of the virus.

“I am hopeful Washingtonians will get vaccinated for their own health and that of their loved ones and to help move our state closer to a full reopening,” Inslee said in a statement Tuesday.

Following Thursday’s press conference, Inslee is expected to raise the pride flag at the state capitol around noon for LGBT Pride Month.