No anonymous winners, few details on local incentives: The latest on Missouri VIP

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -Missouri health officials say more than a hundred thousand residents have signed up for MO VIP, the state’s new vaccine incentive program.

Governor Mike Parson announced the vaccine incentive program on Wednesday, July 21st. Over the next three months, 900 Missourians who have or will choose to be vaccinated will win cash or education savings account prizes of $10,000.

On Thursday, July 22nd, officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spoke with reporters more in-depth about the program. One topic discussed is why the state requires residents who are already vaccinated to register for the program.

“We don’t have access to a lot of the federal records. So those who maybe were vaccinated on a military base, through DOD, through the VA, we don’t have that individual’s record,” explains Lisa Cox, Media Representative at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “So those people, if we weren’t doing it the way that we are, would be automatically excluded.”

So Missouri residents who were vaccinated outside of the state, or through a federal program, will need to supply their vaccination records within ten days of winning.

Another big topic was what happens after a resident wins. Officials explain that the winnings will be taxable and that residents who win will not be able to stay anonymous. That may be confusing to many since the program is being done in conjunction with the Missouri Lottery. It also seems to go against a new law in Missouri that makes it a misdemeanor crime for lottery officials to release the identity of a lottery winner without their consent. But state officials say that doesn’t apply because the program isn’t a lottery, and talking about the winners is a big part of the program.

“This program is structured so that we can show people being successful and winning prizes across the state and people can see that they have the opportunity to do so,” explains Robert Knodell, Acting Director of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “If that is not publicized, then we would lose the effectiveness of that.”

The state will publicize winners’ names, and what city and county they live in.

We’ve also learned more about cash incentives that local health providers will be able to give residents who get the vaccine. As a part of MO VIP, 11 million dollars in grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control will be distributed to local health providers throughout the state. Those health providers will be able to give each Missouri resident who gets fully vaccinated up to 25 dollars on a gift card. Joel Dermott at the Barton County Health Department attended a meeting with state health officials Thursday and says not many other details are available.

“We do not have a fully developed program yet. What happened was they had submitted a little different proposal to the CDC for approval. That got denied. So they had to resubmit and they just received approval for it right before they made the announcement,” explains Dermott. “They’re still working on it and will probably have something for us a little bit more next week.”

Dermott did learn, however, that the state is working on a tight timeline. He explains that the state would like to have the program up and running by early August.

“They’re scrambling to put the plan together for us to look at, and then we’re gonna have to make some very quick decisions and move forward with it,” says Dermott.

Dermott also tells us that, as of now, local health providers will have a say in how they distribute the gift cards and if they’ll participate at all. Since there aren’t many details yet, he’s not sure if Barton County will end up participating.

“Gift cards are great, but you would like those dollars to stay local if you can. So we’re not sure how that’s going to work,” says Dermott. “It’s got the potential to be a nice little program and it’s got the potential to be difficult to administer.”

You can learn more about MO VIP, and register, here:

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