Colorado announces final lottery winner as COVID-19 vaccinations drop further

Colorado’s $5 million COVID-19 vaccine lottery didn’t spark a significant increase in immunizations, with the number of people inoculated in recent weeks falling to a level not seen since the shots became widely available to the public.

The incentive program came to an end Wednesday when Gov. Jared Polis announced the fifth and final $1 million winner and the next five students who will each receive $50,000 in scholarships.

The governor also urged those who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so, especially as more contagious variants are circulating in the state.

“The virus is still with us,” he said during a news briefing. “But the vaccines work against the delta variant, against all the known variants.”

Heidi Russell, who received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in February, is the fifth winner of $1 million. She and her husband, who is also inoculated against the virus, have four children.

“Having three school-aged kids this past year was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “We’re excited to get back in school full-time and gain some sense of normalcy. I recognize that hitting our state goal of over 70% of adults being vaccinated has helped us accomplish this goal.”

Past winners of the vaccine lottery include Stephanie Sharp, of Douglas County; Pete Vegas, of Boulder; Stephanie Ward, of Littleton; and Sally Sliger, of Mead.

Colorado announced its vaccine incentive campaign on May 25. By then the pace of COVID-19 immunizations already had started to slow.

The state administered 154,964 doses during the week it announced the program, which was down from 239,076 doses the previous week, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Colorado saw a brief bump in vaccinations during the first week of June when the number of shots administered rose 11% from the last week of May. But since then, immunizations have continued to decline weekly.

Last week, the state administered 59,692 doses — down 21% from the previous week, when 75,944 doses were administered.

The last time Colorado administered fewer than 100,000 doses a week was in late December, when the supply of COVID-19 vaccines was constrained and the shots were limited to specific categories of individuals.

Still, Colorado did hit President Joe Biden’s goal of having at least 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4. As of Monday, more than 2.9 million Coloradans were fully immunized and at least 277,396 people have received one dose.

But racial disparities remain in who is getting vaccinated against the virus. For example, only 10% of people who’ve received COVID-19 shots are Latino, despite that group making up 20% of the population. Of those immunized so far, 68% are white — which is in line with their share of the population, according to data from the state health department.

The state’s next goal is to get more children ages 12 and older vaccinated before the school year begins in the fall. It will do this by having more primary care physicians and pediatricians administer the shots, said Tara Trujillo, COVID-19 vaccine campaign manager.

The governor also announced five more winners of the $50,000 scholarships, which can be used for education at a four-year college, trade school or community college.

People were entered into the lottery based on the state’s vaccination database and winners chosen via a drawing by the Colorado Lottery.

The money for the program came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act.

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