NY Raffling Off 50 Full College Scholarships in Bid to Vaccinate Kids Aged 12 to 17

New York City and state have unveiled a series of incentives to encourage people who haven't yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine to get dosed

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What to Know

  • New York state is in the midst of a five-day pilot program where people who get dosed at select sites get a lottery scratch-off ticket; prizes could be worth up to $5 million, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said
  • The governor introduced a new program Wednesday targeting 12- to 17-year-olds; those who get vaccinated in the next six weeks have a shot to win a four-year scholarship to any New York university
  • NJ has also rolled out a bevy of incentives; it will lift its indoor mask rule for the immunized on Friday and Gov. Phil Murphy will give employers options for assessing worker vaccination status on June 4

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is upping the ante as he hones New York's effort to reach those with the lowest vaccination rates, adding a shot at free four-year scholarships to any SUNY or CUNY college in the state in a bid to target people age 12 to 17.

Starting Thursday through July 7, the state will raffle off 50 full tuition, room and board scholarships by random drawing for 12- to 17-year-old New Yorkers who get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the only one available to them, in the next six weeks. The random drawing will be conducted every Wednesday and include 10 four-year scholarships each week, Cuomo said in making the announcement.

Kids of eligible age who have already gotten at least one dose can go to the state's vaccine page and get added to the weekly drawing pool, the governor noted. Those who are interested can sign up here to be notified when each drawing begins.

Federal COVID-19 relief and outreach funds will cover the costs of the incentive program, Cuomo said.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

It's the latest effort to devise more creative tactics to target those less inclined, less motivated or otherwise simply less likely to get vaccinated. In New York, the 12- to 17-year-old age group accounted for 5% of COVID tests conducted statewide over a three-day period last week but 10% of positive cases, Cuomo said Wednesday.

At the same time, kids age 12 to 17, the last to become eligible for vaccination, have substantially lower dose rates than their older cohorts.

Just 8.7% of New Yorkers age 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated compared with nearly 38% of the next age group -- those 18 to 25 -- a mammoth difference, Cuomo said.

"To better reach this population and defeat COVID once and for all we need to get creative in our efforts. We're offering all 12- to 17-year-olds a potentially life-changing opportunity -- a full scholarship, room and board at any public college or university in New York -- in exchange for getting vaccinated," the governor added. "The earlier you get vaccinated, the more chances you have to win—it's free, there's no appointments and you also have a chance to win a full scholarship."

More than 55% of New York residents age 18 and older are now fully vaccinated. Nearly 53% of that age group in the city is also immunized, and the five boroughs have administered more than 8 million total doses to date. Still, the fervency that highlighted the earlier days of the rollout has ebbed.

Vaccination rates across New York state have plunged over the last month and a half and declined 47% over the last three weeks alone, hence the incentive push.

New York City is debuting weekly prizes -- everything from staycation packages to concert tickets, Broadway shows and more -- while the state is in the midst of a pilot program testing just how much interest scratch-offs worth up to $5 million might drudge up. That program kicked off Monday and runs through Friday.

Anyone who gets vaccinated at select state-run sites a lottery scratch-off ticket sold for $20 by retailers across New York. Prizes range from $20 to up to $5 million as the governor looks to achieve some of the success his cohort did in Ohio when he launched a $1 million vaccine lottery incentive earlier this month.

The lotto program uses both Pfizer and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (those who get Pfizer get a scratch-off after their initial dose). Only residents 18 and older are eligible to participate. They've got a one in nine chance of winning some prize. See a list of participating sites here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says those who got vaccinated at Madison Square Garden a day ago have a chance to win tickets to the Knicks' game Wednesday. Those who get vaccinated at the arena Thursday have a shot to win tickets to a game next season. Winners may also get free Knicks merch. Gaby Acevedo reports.

Hoping to take advantage of the nicer weather and upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, New York state is also offering two-day passes to state parks (as well as beaches like Jones Beach on Long Island) for those who get dosed this week.

In addition to the city's new weekly prizes, Mayor Bill de Blasio says those who got vaccinated at Madison Square Garden a day ago have a chance to win tickets to the Knicks' game Wednesday. Those who get vaccinated at the arena Thursday have a shot to win tickets to a game next season. Winners may also get free Knicks merch.

New Jersey has rolled out a bevy of incentives, too, the most lucrative of which kicks in Thursday in the form of a free season pass to any state park — including Island Beach State Park — for anyone who has received at least one shot by July 4.

The Garden State will lift its indoor mask mandate for the fully vaccinated in accordance with CDC guidelines, mirroring recent moves made in New York and Connecticut, on Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy has said. A day later, he plans to allow additional flexibility to employers in terms of assessing worker vaccination status.

Specifically, his executive order will allow them to let employees who can verify vaccination to forgo mask and social distancing rules. Murphy said Wednesday he will also rescind a state order requiring employers to accommodate remote working arrangements and to reduce on-site staffs to the minimum needed starting June 4.

Murphy also announced the current limit of 15 kids in child care classes are returned to their normal regulated limits effective immediately. The governor's announcement Wednesday came as the state inched closer to vaccinating 50% of its residents (now at 46.5%). Murphy is now nearly 90% of the way to his goal of fully vaccinating at least 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June 30.

Even as vaccination rates slow across the board, recoveries for New Jersey and its neighbor across the river, the now nearly fully reopened one-time epicenter of the pandemic moves forward.

Murphy has said New Jersey schools will fully return to in-person learning in the fall and Mayor de Blasio said the same this week as it relates to New York City. All public schools will return full-time in September with no remote option.

"You can't have a full recovery without full-strength schools, everyone back, sitting in those classrooms, kids learning again," de Blasio said.

As of now, students will still need to wear masks and adhere to other CDC guidelines once the schools reopen to all students on Sept. 13, according to NYC Chancellor Meisha Porter. Those and other guidelines, though, are subject to change.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


The state did change its mask policy regarding summer camps this week, saying unvaccinated campers are "encouraged" rather than required to wear face coverings -- yet another sign of progress as New York's daily positivity rate drops to its lowest level since the end of August.

Murphy said Wednesday he didn't foresee dropping New Jersey's mask rules for unvaccinated campers this summer, nor does he foresee, at this point, eliminating mask requirements for schools come fall because of vaccine rates for those ages.

Cuomo has pledged an updated statewide school policy for the greater return to in-person learning soon. Meanwhile, he separately announced Wednesday that all New York sports venues can go to 100% capacity if they opt to require all those in attendance to be fully vaccinated. The state will help debut a first major vaccinated-only event -- the Tribeca Festival closing -- at Radio City Music Hall next month.

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