Parson announces vaccine incentive lottery with $10,000 prizes, picks new health director

covid vaccine syringe

By TESSA WEINBERG
The Missouri Independent

In a bid to increase vaccination rates to combat the Delta variant’s growing spread, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday an incentive program that will feature chances to win $10,000 for those who get a shot.

Parson was also joined Wednesday by Donald Kauerauf, a former assistant director in the Illinois Department of Public Health, who will serve as the new director of the Department of Health and Senior Services. The announcement comes just over three months since Randall Williams, the former DHSS director, resigned suddenly with little explanation.

The unveiling of an incentive program to persuade Missourians to get vaccinated has been anticipated for weeks, as state officials have worked to finalize details and pin down funding sources.

Parson himself had previously been hesitant to adopt incentives, questioning last month whether they would set a precedent to reward vaccinations. However, he has since turned to them as the state continues to see some of the highest numbers of new cases per capita, and has expressed his support for smaller-scale lottery prizes.

Missouri’s incentive program will be operated by the Missouri Lottery. Entries will be divided by Missouri’s eight Congressional districts. There will be separate drawings for those already vaccinated, those who have yet to be and for minors who can win a MOST 529 savings plan, an investment account that can be used to pay college tuition, among other educational expenses.

The first drawing will be on Aug. 13. Drawings will occur every two weeks with the final drawing scheduled for Oct. 8.

The incentive program’s launch previously hit a snag when it came to funding, with Missouri urging the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention on Friday to make an exception and waive a $25 per person limit for incentives paid for by federal funding to boost immunizations.

The state will instead cover the costs of Missouri’s incentive program through unspent federal coronavirus relief funds, which the U.S. Treasury Department recently clarified can be used for cash payments and lotteries, “so long as such costs are reasonably proportional to the expected public health benefit.”

Supplemental grant funding to boost immunizations will instead be made available to local public health departments to craft county-level incentive programs of their own.

New director from Illinois

Kauerauf comes from Illinois, where he has spent three decades serving in primarily state government roles related to emergency response and public health. He most recently served as the chair of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force within the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, where he had previously also served as the chief of the Bureau of Preparedness and Grants Administration.

Kauerauf also served as the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, a position he had been appointed to in July 2016 by former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. Kauerauf had worked in the department for a decade prior to that from 1994 to 2004, where he served in various roles, including chief of the department’s division of disaster planning and readiness, according to a news article at the time.

He also oversaw “Safe2Help Illinois,” a school safety program that aimed to collect tips in an effort to prevent suicide, bullying and school violence, and worked as an emergency management intelligence officer at Western Illinois University in the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, according to a previous bio.

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