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TACOMA, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced further incentive programs on Thursday to encourage more residents to get vaccinated. Any military members, their families and veterans who get immunized against COVID-19 are eligible for cash prizes of $100,000, Amazon gift cards worth $250 or state parks gift cards worth $100.

There will be weekly drawings for three weeks starting July 20. The final week's drawing will be a $250,000 cash prize.

"This promotion is separate from our other incentive programs, and we're calling it 'A Heroes Thanks,'" a press release from Inslee's office said. "It applies to military, military staff and their family members who were vaccinated through the Department of Defense, the VA, or the National Guard."

The Department of Defense has not provided the state with names of active duty personnel who have been been immunized, so names must be submitted to be entered into the state lottery. Inslee said the final prize for military members is less than the $1 million prize for civilians, because there are fewer entries.

"You have a lot better chance of winning," Inslee said. "It's a smaller pool than pool for the whole state."

Doctors will also be encouraged to reach out to patients about the vaccines.

Washington's Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency order Thursday that medical providers can bill insurance companies for proactively reaching out to patients who have not been vaccinated.

"We know people rely on their doctors and nurses for medical information. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 8 in 10 people would turn to their medical provider for information about the COVID vaccine," the state press release said. "That's why it's critical to engage with our providers."

These programs join the growing list of state incentives to bolster the state vaccination rate:

The Washington State Lottery is hosting a "Shot of a Lifetime" giveaway series in June to offer prizes to vaccinated people of up to $1 million on July 13.

Nearly $1 million will be dispersed to public four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges for their own drawing for free tuition and expenses for vaccinated students.

Thirty prizes of one-year of tuition college credits to 12-17 year olds through the Guaranteed Education Tuition. These credits will go directly to families.

Various ticket prizes will be offered by Alaska Airlines and Seattle sports teams.

The state is administering gift cards by businesses at vaccine events, and Microsoft will give away 300 Xboxes and GamePasses to vaccinated individuals. Nintendo will be offering Nintendo Switches. Google will give away 25 Google Nests, and Amazon will be giving away 40 Echo Dots.

The governor believes the incentive programs have had a positive effect, he said in the press conference. Before the incentive programs were announced, the vaccination rates had dropped off.

"We have arrested that decline and we feel that is good news," Inslee said. "I'm really glad this is encouraging people to think about the vaccine."

Despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that Washington has surpassed the 70 percent threshold at 71.7 percent, Inslee said the state is not reopening early.

His statement earlier this week said Washington is staying the course for now.

The Washington state Department of Health is tracking vaccinations at a lower rate, largely because the state has included all residents 16 and older, rather than the federal standard of 18 and older, and there are differences in population estimates.

The state reports 67.2 percent of Washingtonians have received at least one shot.

In addition to the push to reopen, Inslee mentioned vaccinations are important to tamper the growing cases of COVID-19 variants across the state that appear to be more transmissible than other variants.

Inslee said he doesn't believe the variants would jeopardize the June 30 reopening.

"I can't see not opening on June 30," Inslee said. "This comes with the caution that these variants continue to increase in our state."

(c)2021 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

An Air Force medical technician injects the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a  worker.
An Air Force medical technician injects the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a worker. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

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