Long before Darrell Washington learned he was the first winner of Massachusetts’ VaxMillions Giveaway, he decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for one simple reason: He wanted to protect his family.
“I have family members who have comorbidities. That was always on my mind. I got vaccinated because I didn’t want to be the one to transmit the virus to them if I got infected. There’s no way I could be around my family if I wasn’t vaccinated,” said the Weymouth resident, who works at the state’s largest not-for-profit health plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
“I also talked to my siblings about the importance of getting vaccinated,” he said. “We all miss each other. In order for all of us to get together, we’d all have to be immunized. I didn’t want any of us to take any chances.”
Washington turned 63 in July, and two days later, lost one of his brothers, a tragedy that brought home to him the importance of health and family.
“Now there are five of us siblings left,” he said. “It made it more important for us to stay connected and even more important for us to get vaccinated because we don’t want to lose anyone else.”
Washington had been vaccinated in April, and entered the state’s VaxMillions lottery in July, but says he didn’t even pay attention to the first drawing.
“Once I entered, I didn’t think about it because I never win anything, except maybe $10 on a scratch-off ticket once,” he said with a laugh.
And then came the call telling him he had won. Last week, Washington joined Gov. Charlie Baker, along with15-year-old Chelsea High School student Daniela Maldonado, who won a scholarship grant, at a news conference at the State House. Even now, he says, the news hasn’t quite sunk in.
The contest is designed to boost vaccination in Massachusetts, which has one of the highest rates in the country at about 63% of the public – but is still well short of the 80-90% public health experts say is necessary to stop spread of the virus. Increasing the vaccination rate has become even more important as the highly infectious Delta variant spreads across the country.
As part of the giveaway, fully vaccinated residents over 18 are eligible to win one of five $1 million prizes, while residents age 12-17 can win one of five $300,000 scholarship grants.
There are still four VaxMillion winners and four scholarship winners yet to be announced, and those who get fully vaccinated are eligible to enter the giveaway until Thursday, Aug. 19, at 11:59 p.m, via VaxMillionsGiveaway.com or by calling 2-1-1.
The real winners
Beyond the chance to win $1 million, Washington said, folks should focus on the opportunity to protect their friends and family by getting vaccinated.
“There’s so much information out there,” Washington said. “I encourage everyone to shut off all of it and ask yourself, What is most important to you? Would you rather get vaccinated, which takes less than 5 seconds, or risk one of your family members getting critically ill and dying from COVID?”
The vaccine can protect your own health, but it’s more than that. You want to protect your kids, your loved ones and your friends.