ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Incentivizing COVID-19 vaccinations, New Mexico has started handing out the first quarter-million-dollar prizes in the state’s Vax 2 the Max sweepstakes. Following the first drawing, the odds of winning the game are clearly better in regions where New Mexicans aren’t getting vaccinated compared to the communities that rallied to get shots in arms.
Monday, the state released the names of the first four initial Vax 2 the Max winners, including Ruth Meilstrup of Santa Fe, Phillip Perez of Albuquerque, Linda Tobkin of Ruidoso and Taylor Brooke Provencio of Chamberino in Doña Ana County. The best winning odds came out of the southeast region, where the state says there were roughly one in 30,000 people participating in the $250,000 drawing.
“It has had this effect of creating different odds for different corners of the state,” said Matt Bieber, Communications Director for the New Mexico Department of Health. “My hope is that will have a motivating effect for folks in that southeast, I expect that it will.”
There are at least four more $250,000 Vax 2 the Max drawings for each of the state’s public health regions. The odds in each region will continue to change if more people get vaccinated and opt-in to the drawing.
For the first drawing, people in Bernalillo, Sandoval and a handful of other counties in the northwest region had one in 276,405 chance of winning. The northeast region’s odds of winning were one in 85,509 people.
In the southern part of the state, the southwest region’s odds of winning were about one in 68,371 people. The southeast including Chavez, Eddy and Lea counties saw a one in 30,302 chance of winning.
Most big prize lottery games can carry odds of one in hundreds of millions. For example, a Powerball Jackpot’s odds are typical around one in 292 million, while Mega Millions’ odds are roughly one in 302 million.
While the state says while the odds of winning may be greater in the southeast, it also means the region is at far greater risk for continued harm from COVID-19. The state is continuing with efforts to drill down on the reason for vaccine hesitancy across the southeast and other parts of the state where vaccination rates are lagging.
“Anywhere where vaccination rates are lagging, that means that those places are less protected,” Bieber said. “It means the virus has more opportunity to spread, it means variants have more opportunities to spread, and when they spread and they affect people, folks get hospitalized and die.”
The first Vax 2 the Max winner in the southeast, Linda Tobkin of Ruidoso says she got a vaccine to protect her kids and extended family. She hopes her win inspires others to get vaccinated.
“We got ours fairly early and I’ve been telling everybody, register because I never win anything and you know it was worth the wait, dream do come true,” Tobkin said in an interview with KRQE News 13 Wednesday. “Those that are holding out, all I can say is do it!”
A retired school teacher, Tobkin says she’s planning to pay it forward with most of their winnings. She already does charitable work in education and at a local community kitchen.
The next Vax 2 the Max drawing will take place on July 2, followed by drawings scheduled for July 16, July 23, and July 30. A $5-million drawing will take place on August 7.