Despite a bump in early June, Colorado’s vaccine lottery hasn’t stemmed the decrease in new COVID-19 inoculations — though it did provide a significant boost to a Douglas County health care worker.
Stephanie Sharp, a child psychologist who splits her time between private practice and working with Children’s Hospital Colorado, accepted the fourth $1 million check via Zoom on Friday afternoon. She was in Pennsylvania, visiting her father for the first time since the pandemic began.
Sharp said she and her husband Craig, who is an intensive-care nurse, both got vaccinated as soon as they could. She said they plan to donate a portion of the money to organizations promoting kindness, and that she hopes the experience of the last year will lead to more openness about mental health.
“My hope is that this pandemic will bring some degree of a silver lining,” she said.
Sharp joins previous winners Pete Vegas, of Boulder; Stephanie Ward, of Littleton; and Sally Sliger, of Mead. The final $1 million winner will be drawn on July 7.
Gov. Jared Polis also announced five new winners of $50,000 college scholarships: Clara Smith, 17, of Berthoud; Bay Morrish, 17, of Nederland; Sula Schuyler, 13, of Denver; Nathan Reseigh, 15, of Boulder; and Liza C., 12, of Denver. Liza’s parents didn’t agree to release her last name.
The state will draw 10 more scholarship winners. While most winners said they wanted to go to a four-year college, the money also can be used for trade school or community college.
The number of vaccines administered had increased about 11% between the last week of May and the first week of June, after dropping for two months. The bump was short-lived, though, and new vaccinations fell by more than a quarter in the second week of June to 99,126, the lowest weekly total since the last week of December.
Polis said the cash prizes were more effective in motivating people who had put off the shot than putting the same amount of money into more advertisements would have been.
“This is designed to get a few percent more, to be at 70% at July 4 instead of 67%,” he said, referencing President Joe Biden’s goal that 70% of adults receive at least one vaccine dose by then.
Colorado is close to the one-dose goal, though that may become less relevant in the future, since a single dose provides significantly less protection against the delta variant. A two-dose regimen is still highly effective against delta, a more-contagious and possibly more-severe version of the virus that now accounts for the majority of cases in Colorado.
About 59% of Coloradans 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentages are higher for adults, especially those older than 65.
How many people are protected varies widely across the state, though. In San Juan County, which has the highest vaccination rate, just shy of 80% of eligible people are fully protected. In Bent and Crowley counties, it’s less than 20%, and the rate hasn’t budged in weeks.
The state has tried increasingly hands-on tactics to boost flagging vaccinations. On Monday, representatives of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment started calling adults whom its records show aren’t yet vaccinated. They also sent text messages and emails on Tuesday and Friday to people ages 18 to 29 who are overdue for their second Pfizer or Moderna shot. A previous campaign focused on people over 30 who were only partially vaccinated.
Polis urged anyone who has put off getting the vaccine to get it this weekend, both to be eligible for the final drawing and to start building immunity. The vast majority of people dying of COVID-19 haven’t been vaccinated, and communities like Denver that have achieved high rates of vaccination are seeing very little spread of the virus, he said.
“We’re able to really witness that light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
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