Philadelphia health officials announced the first winners of the city’s “Vax sweepstakes,” an effort to incentivize more residents to get COVID-19 vaccines by handing out some $400,000 in cash prizes.
On Friday, Mayor Jim Kenney and other officials handed a novelty check for $50,000 to West Oak Lane resident Daniel Silva outside Kensington’s Santos Health Center. The 53-year-old was the first to claim a grand prize for being vaccinated.
He says he hopes to set an example for others.
“I believe everyone needs to get the vaccine because it benefits your health and helps others. If everyone gets together and does the right thing, the world will be a better place,” he said. “Just take it.”
The University of Pennsylvania conceived of and funded the sweepstakes. The city selected 12 winners at Penn earlier in the week –– two $50,000 grand prizes, four $5,000 prizes, and six $1,000 prizes in each drawing. And, over the next six weeks, another 35 vaccinated Philadelphians will be selected to win nearly $400,000 in prizes.
Residents can register to win or be selected randomly from a city registry. The city has focused on selecting random winners from “priority ZIP codes,” like Silva’s, with below-average rates of inoculation. While anyone can enter, only those with proof of vaccination may claim prizes.
Tens of thousands more residents have gotten vaccines since the initiative was announced several weeks ago, although officials say it’s too early to say exactly how much of an impact the effort has had.
Mayor Kenney also celebrated the city had hit its July 4th goal early –– with 70% of all city residents reporting at least one dose of vaccine earlier this week.
“Availability and access have never been greater,” he said. “But while we’ve made great progress, we still have more work to do.”
Health officials said increasing that rate was still critical. The new “Delta” COVID-19 variant had raised some concerns about a possible resurgence of the virus, as the new strain now accounted for 20% of cases in the United States.
For his part, Silva said he planned to put some of the prize money into savings and put the rest towards a trip with his partner.
“We’re going to Las Vegas,” he said, quickly adding, “Not to gamble.”
Interested residents may register for the Vax Sweepstakes online at www.PhillyVaxSweeps.com, by phone at 1-877-642-5666 between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., or by texting “Phillyvax” to 215-608-9799.