LANSING, Mich. — Amber Berger is a nurse who cared for COVID-19 patients, sometimes as they fought for their lives in the ICU during some of the toughest times of the pandemic.
“There were so many emotions. There was pride because I was working in it and helping. But it was also heartbreaking because of everything these families had to go through. I can’t imagine not being able to be with your loved one at that time, especially as they are passing,” said Berger.
As she cared for patients last year in March her husband, Roseville Police Lt. Andrew Berger, became sick with COVID-19.
“It was so crazy because he is so healthy and health-conscious. To see him as sick as he was, was heartbreaking and so scary,” said Berger.
He had to be hospitalized but ultimately came home to their family and to the community he serves.
Wednesday Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that Amber is the first winner of the $50 thousand dollar daily MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes, a lottery that you are eligible to take part in if you have gotten at least your first vaccination shot. The goal is to help the state reach herd immunity.
Other winners include Adrienne Peterson of Southfield, Christopher Ackerman of Detroit, and Larita Lee of Wyoming.
“We are excited and hope the sweepstakes can increase our rate by 7.5% so we get to that 70% mark,” said Governor Whitmer.
The question is, will it work? More than 1.7 million Michiganders have signed up for the Mi Shot to Win Sweepstakes. People have continued to be vaccinated. Of the four vaccine sweepstakes winners announced, one specifically said that she decided to get vaccinated because she wanted a chance to win.
At the same time statistically other states that have had such lotteries have seen little impact.
“Well, we have natural experiments going on in states that have these lotteries and those that haven’t. We have not seen differences in the vaccine uptake rates of the states that have,” said Mark Navin, a Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Oakland University and a Medical Ethicist at Beaumont Health.
Navin says he isn’t sure the lottery is money well spent.
“I understand why we tried. We need to be doing everything we can and throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Because even increasing rates 5 - 10% could have a dramatic impact on lives saved and disease prevented,” said Navin.
According to the state as of 4:00 p.m. Monday, July 12, 62.4% of Michigan residents age 16 and older – a total of 5,053,370 of the state’s residents – have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations.
The MI Shot To Win Sweepstakes giveaway includes $5 million in total prizes, including 30 daily prizes of $50,000, a $1 million prize, and a $2 million prize. For those receiving vaccines ages 12 to 17, there are nine four-year college scholarships.
After winning the lottery for being vaccinated, Amber has this message for those thinking about getting the shot.
“If it is going to help and get rid of this as much as we can get rid of it and protect you, your family, and people you love, why not do it?” she said.