Grand Blanc woman wins $1 million in COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The $1 million winner and two $50,000 winners of the MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes were announced Wednesday morning.

LaTonda Anderson of Grand Blanc won the $1 million drawing. She received her vaccine in the spring at Flint Northwestern High School. Sweepstakes organizers told her she won the $1 million by surprising her at home.

She said she encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

“In my opinion, it’s the ultimate act of unselfishness to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Anderson said in a prerecorded video statement released Wednesday. “Every time I talk to someone, I’m always encouraging them to get vaccinated. What is it going to hurt?”

Anderson said after taxes, she plans on donating some of her winnings to her church and paying off some loans.

Tim Meadows, a Highland Park native and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, announced the two $50,000 winners.

The first $50,000 winner is Jenna Basaj, a full-time nanny from Madison Heights on the eastside of state. She was vaccinated on July 5 at the Meijer in Sterling Heights and also drawn as the winner that same day.

“I got my vaccine because after going through COVID and being away from my family and the kids I nanny for so long I realized I wanted to keep myself and family as safe as possible,” she said in a prerecorded video statement released Wednesday.   

WEST MICHIGAN WINNER

The second winner is Paul Bareno of Rockford. He received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Family Fare in Rockford on July 6. He said planned on using his prize money on some home improvement projects and a much-needed vacation.

“It’s fairly unbelievable, you know, just something good happening for a simple act,” Bareno said.

Bareno is the second person from West Michigan to win the daily $50,000 drawing. Last week, the state announced a winner from Wyoming.

Bareno said he planned to get the vaccine eventually but he wasn’t in a rush. He said he wanted to see what kind of symptoms others experienced first. 

“I had a mild case of COVID at the end of last year and found out through blood donation that I had antibodies. So without knowing how long the antibodies are good for, I felt like I had a level of security and was able to not be an early adopter of the vaccine,” Bareno said.

He said after the sweepstakes was announced, he decided to sign up to receive his shot. 

“Ultimately, it’s a personal choice, but I would say the more educated you are personally, you just become comfortable with making a decision for you,” Bareno said.

IS THE SWEEPSTAKES AFFECTING THE VACCINATION RATE?

The goal of the sweepstakes is to increase the state’s vaccination rate to 70% of residents age 16 and older. As of Wednesday, the state said 62.9% of Michigan residents — or nearly 5.1 million people — age 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“What’s at the core here is we need to vaccinate our state. COVID-19 is a real threat. We’ve had a lot of lives lost here in Michigan and our best defense against this virus is the vaccine,” said Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of Protect Michigan Commission, which is organizing the state’s vaccine outreach and helping run the sweepstakes.

Since the July 1 launch of the sweepstakes, about 90,000 more Michiganders have gotten at least their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state dashboard. That accounts for about 1.1% of the state’s eligible population and is about half the number of people who got their shots in June.

While there’s no way to track how or if the lottery influenced people to get their shots this month, Ebersole Singh said the Protect Michigan Commission considers the sweepstakes a success.

“We have seen an uptick in first dose vaccinations. Now, it’s been slight, but at the same time, there’s fewer unvaccinated people today than there were back in March,” Ebersole Singh said.

The state says more than 2 million people have entered the sweepstakes to win cash prizes and more than 90,000 young people ages 12 to 17 entered to win one of nine college scholarships. To enter, you can go to mishottowin.com or call the Michigan COVID-19 hotline at 888.535.6136 and press 1. Those between the ages of 12 and 17 must be registered by a parent. There are nine days remaining to enter.

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