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Colorado COVID-19 vaccinations rose after lottery; Boulder County man is third winner

A Boulder County man is $1 million richer, but the state may have notched a bigger win after Colorado’s new COVID-19 vaccinations rose for the first time in two months.

Pete Vegas, who runs a rice-processing business based in Boulder, is the third person to win the state’s $1 million lottery, which is open to all vaccinated adults. A separate drawing for college scholarships is open to vaccinated people ages 12 to 17.

The previous two winners were Sally Sliger, of Mead, and Stephanie Ward, of Littleton. Vaccinated people who weren’t as lucky will have two more chances to win.

The lottery didn’t cause a surge in vaccines the week that Gov. Jared Polis announced it, but it may be having a delayed effect. The number of shots going into arms increased about 10% from the last week of May to the first week of June. The last time the vaccinations rose was in early April.

The state’s data has a significant delay, so it’s not clear if the bump was a trend or a fluke. Polis said to expect some leveling off, but that he thinks the state will reach President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one shot to at least 70% of adults by July 4.

“As you get more and more folks (vaccinated), the number will not be able to keep up,” he said.

The increase coincides with the state’s first vaccine lottery drawing, but it’s not clear if the lottery was the cause. New vaccinations increased 55% after Ohio announced its $1 million lottery incentive, but it’s also possible some people simply delayed their shots to avoid disrupting their Memorial Day plans.

The state hasn’t collected data on why recipients chose to get the vaccine.

Vegas said he plans to use most of his winnings to construct a commercial greenhouse and set up test plots where farmers can learn sustainable techniques. He urged people who haven’t been vaccinated to get the shot, referencing how vaccines eliminated smallpox and have come close to wiping out polio.

“We really need to pull together to deal with COVID,” he said.