A COVID-19 nurse who helped the state of Michigan weather one of the country’s worst public health crises is finally getting her due. She just became one of the first four winners of the state’s vaccine lottery system, and now she’s walking away with $50,000 in cash. Not bad for getting the vaccine. It’s just another incentive to get your shot.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
It’s been a harrowing 15 months for Amber Berger, a registered nurse from New Baltimore, in one of the worst-hit states in the country. She watched countless patients lose their lives to COVID-19 in near isolation.
“There were so many emotions. There was pride because I was working in it and helping. But it was also heartbreaking because of everything these families had to go through. I can’t imagine not being able to be with your loved one at that time, especially as they are passing,” Berger said of the pandemic.
While caring for her patients, she saw her husband, Roseville Police Lt. Andrew Berger, and a close friend come down with COVID-19. Her husband had to be hospitalized, but he eventually made it home and is back to serving the community.
“It was so crazy because he is so healthy and health-conscious. To see him as sick as he was, was heartbreaking and so scary,” said Berger. Her husband finally got vaccinated on July 3rd.
Berger got vaccinated on July 1st, 2021, at Henry Ford Hospital. She says she wasn’t aware of the lottery system when she first signed up for the shot. She was motivated by her upcoming trip to Cancun, Mexico, as well as her desire “to help keep everyone safe.”
Reflecting on her decision to get vaccinated after months of waiting, Berger said, “I understand that it is a scary thing to let something new into your body, but if it is going to help protect one person as well as yourself and your family, why not do it?”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the first set of winners of the MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes during a press conference last Thursday. The sweepstakes is open to anyone living in the state that’s received at least one dose of the vaccine. The lottery is scheduled to give away $5 million in prizes, including 30 daily prizes of $50,000, a $1 million prize, and a $2 million prize. Anyone under the age of 17 can enter for a chance to win one of nine college scholarships for in-state tuition.
Berger and three others, including Adrienne Peterson of Southfield, Christopher Ackerman of Detroit, and Larita Lee of Wyoming, will all receive $50,000.
Commenting on his winnings, Ackerman said he doesn’t have any plans for the money just yet. As for the vaccine, “First off, you know, safe, keeping my family safe. And now look, I just won some money. So, Michigan, let’s go out and get vaccinated so we can go back to a better Michigan.”
Entering the Vaccine Lottery
Michigan isn’t the first state to set up a lottery system to encourage the public to get vaccinated. New York, California, Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, and Washington state have all created similar programs over the last few months.
Lee, a retired General Motors factory worker and mother of three, says the lottery system inspired her to get the vaccine. She says she now spends her time encouraging others to roll up their sleeves, so they don’t end up on a ventilator.
However, not everyone agrees the money is well spent.
Mark Navin, a Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Oakland University and a Medical Ethicist at Beaumont Health, says the results aren’t clear. “Well, we have natural experiments going on in states that have these lotteries and those that haven’t. We have not seen differences in the vaccine uptake rates of the states that have.”
However, states with these programs in place tell a different story. Ohio says its vaccination rate jumped 45% after the lottery was announced in the spring. California saw a 22% increase in vaccination rates after implementing something similar.
“I understand why we tried. We need to be doing everything we can and throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Because even increasing rates 5-10% could have a dramatic impact on lives saved and disease prevented,” said Navin.
Over 1.8 million people have entered the state’s lottery system so far, with more signing up every day. The goal is to get 70% of residents over the age of 16 vaccinated, but only 62.4% of that population has been immunized, according to the latest numbers from the CDC.
Gov. Whitmer noted the state’s progress during the virtual press conference where the winners were announced.
In reference to the vaccines, she said, “We are fortunate to have them and we’re going to continue to make efforts to reach out to people across the state, to meet them where they are, answer questions and help them get their shots.”
As the state gets closer to its goal, Whitmer urged caution as the Delta variant continues to spread. “I know it is tempting to celebrate right now because we have been moving forward,” she said.
If your health and the wellbeing of others isn’t enough to convince you to get vaccinated, check to see if your state has a vaccination incentive program and sign up for your shot today!