BOSTON (CBS) – The first winners of the Massachusetts COVID vaccine lottery, dubbed VaxMillions, were announced Thursday. Darrell Washington, 63, of Weymouth won the initial $1 million prize, while 15-year-old Chelsea High School student Daniela Maldonado won a $300,000 college scholarship.
Fully-vaccinated residents in Massachusetts are eligible to sign up for the five drawings. People over 18 can win the $1 million prizes, while residents 12-17 years old can win college scholarships.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced the first winners at a news conference at the State House.
“Today is a pretty big day,” said Baker.
Both Washington and Maldonado said when they received the call they had won they didn’t believe it was legitimate at first.
“I thought it was a scam,” Maldonado laughed, adding she soon learned from her mother that she had indeed won.
Washington is a case worker for Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Maldonado, a sophomore at Chelsea High School, said she is part of a low income family and this will make it possible for her to go college.
“I just want to say thank you for everyone who made this possible, for this opportunity because now I’m able to achieve goals that I’ve wanted to do, but would’ve not be able to do because of this scholarship,” Maldonado said, adding she is hoping to attend Boston University or UMass.
Washington said he felt it was critical to get the vaccine to protect his family.
“It was rather important for me to get the vaccination because I have family members who have co-morbidities, and I couldn’t imagine me being a host for the virus and getting them sick and critically ill and possibly passing away. I just couldn’t do that,” Washington said.
Additional drawings will be held the next four Mondays, with winners announced each Thursday. Winners will have 24 hours to respond when the Department of Public Health reaches out, and if that person does not respond, they will forfeit the prize and another winner will be chosen.
“You should get vaccinated to help the community and you could win a scholarship,” Maldonado said.
The state created the lottery to encourage more people to get a COVID vaccine. About two million people have signed up so far.
“I think that people should really just probably turn off like a lot of people on TV, and just really ask yourself, ‘Is your child, is your spouse, is your grandparents, are they worth you getting vaccination?’” Washington said. “I mean that risk seems to be very, very easy for me to resolve, and I think you will to. If you care about them, you would probably do that.”
Compared to other lottery games, the odds are pretty good. Baker previously said entrants have about 400,000 to 1 odds, which is much better than the regular lottery where Mega Millions odds are 300 million to 1.
For more information on all the rules, visit vaxmillionsgiveaway.com.