Recent University of Delaware graduate Sophie Poindexter is going to be able to put her job search on hold, at least for a little while.
She's the lucky grand prize winner of $302,000 in the DE Wins! vaccine lottery, which was launched in an effort to get 70% of Delawareans a first dose of vaccine by July 4th, in conjunction with President Biden's goal. That goal was reached a few days before Independence Day.
When Poindexter first got the phone call from the state about her win, she thought what we'd all honestly think:
"I definitely thought it was a scam," she told WDEL.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, called it the most fun phone call she's ever had to make.
"I will tell you that I've been calling most of the winners from the beginning, and when I talk to people, I think their first reaction is--this is a scam. So when I called her, I told her who I am, and I first tried to convince her that this isn't a scam, that this is for real," Rattay laughed. "Then I told her she should probably sit down because I had some life-changing news for her...telling someone that they have won $302,000 is a once-in-a-life-time thing for me."
Poindexter quickly realized the whole thing was legitimate.
"I went over to the lottery office, got the check, and now it's real," she said. "So I had to open another savings account."
The Newark woman, who isn't a lottery player, didn't even know cash prizes were available just for getting vaccinated when she rolled up her sleeve to get the Moderna vaccine. During her final year of college, Poindexter lived at home, which she said, further fueled her desire to become vaccinated.
"I just wanted to stay safe for my parents...everybody was so nice, very clear. I wasn't really nervous or anything, and the second I did it, it just felt amazing because I felt like I could start living a little bit again without worrying about myself and everybody else."
Gov. John Carney presented Poindexter with her jumbo check at Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington Monday, July 19, 2021.
"We struggle with that demographic 18 to 34, young adults, who are vaccinated at a rate significantly less than those in the older cohorts, 65 and older...and as a result we have a real difference within our community among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The CDC has said that if you're vaccinated, you're safe and you're clear. The problem is, and particularly in certain demographics, we don't have a vaccination rate over 50%."
Rattay called the vaccine incentive program a bright spot in what had been dark times this past year-and-a-half, and she hopes Sophie's message will resonate with her peers.
"I love hearing your reasons for getting vaccinated and your encouragement of others, and I think this incentive program, for us...has been fun. We've met some pretty great winners along the way, who have I think are better messengers than I can be at times to talk about why getting vaccinated is personal for them and important to them."
"I think a lot of people in that age group are feeling like 'well it's not going to affect me, I'm invincible, and maybe, I'll get infected, but it won't really keep me down.' But Sophie really recognizes the importance of protecting her parents and other individuals in the community, and that can really make a difference in knowing that if you're not protected you can get others sick," said Rattay.
With the Delta variant spreading across the country, Rattay stressed the importance of vaccination.
"We do have a little less than 50% of the total population that's fully vaccinated, and now that we are seeing the Delta variant as our predominant strain in Delaware as of the last week--a much more contagious variant--it is critical to us that we continue to get even more and more Delawareans vaccinated. We do not want to go backwards."
Poindexter said didn't experience any side effects from receiving the Modera vaccine aside from a little bit of arm soreness.
"Overall, totally the experience was worth it to be able to start living a little bit again," she said.
While her idea of living a little still includes looking for a job, her first big purchase will be a plane ticket: destination unknown.
"Obviously, I still need to job search because I just graduated, but it definitely helps me get a head start," she said. "I'm going to, maybe travel, a little it, but definitely keep it aside.
Her message to other Delawareans:
"I think it's really important for everybody to get vaccinated. I felt just great knowing that I did this one small thing that could help everybody, and I got a little something out of it," she laughed. "So I think it's important for everybody to get vaccinated--prize or not."
Other prizes in the vaccine incentive program included Firefly tickets, college scholarships, and free tolls for a year. Two other lucky Delawareans took home low-digit license plates as grand prize winners in the DE Wins! campaign; however, their names haven't been divulged. Vaccine lottery winners can remain anonymous.