Waldeck was one of the dozens of lucky West Virginians whose names were drawn this summer during Gov. Jim Justice’s vaccination incentive lottery, “Do It for Babydog.” Named after the governor’s 1-year-old English bulldog, the contest is open only to fully vaccinated West Virginia residents.
“I was originally thinking this had something to do with my grandad’s birthday,” Waldeck remembers. “But then Gov. Justice said my name, and I was just in shock and disbelief for a little while. To be honest, I’m still kind of processing it.”
Weekly prizes have been hand-delivered to winners by Gov. Justice and his canine companion, including custom pickup trucks, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, and four-year scholarships to any public institution in the state, in addition to cash prizes like the one Waldeck received.
“We are trying to incentivize more and more West Virginians to get vaccinated," Gov. Justice says. “And this is one way we’ve been able to do it. If they can’t do it for themselves and can’t do it for their family, then surely they’ll do it for Babydog. I sincerely thank Kara for getting vaccinated, but more than that I thank her for working on the front lines administering vaccines to West Virginians.”
Gov. Justice and Babydog have been pulling long days at the office, working hard to vaccinate West Virginians.
Creative incentives such as the sweepstakes, combined with a strong, effective response effort from the state’s COVID-19 task force led many to hail West Virginia as a vaccine rollout success story, with pharmacists and pharmacy technicians helping to lead the way.
As a frontline healthcare worker, Waldeck has very much been a part of that response, administering months and months of COVID tests throughout the summer and vaccinating patients “nonstop” once doses became available – her Walgreens store in Shepherdstown regularly giving up to 130 vaccines per day during its peak.
However, as the Delta variant surges and case numbers rise throughout the country, governments from the federal to the local level must continue to look for ways to overcome vaccine hesitancy. Incentivization programs like “Do It for Babydog” are a good place to start – in fact, a second round of sweepstakes winners was just announced earlier this week.
“I think the sweepstakes helps a lot, not just because people want a chance to win the prizes, but because it gets people interested in learning more in general,” says Waldeck. “It encourages them to look into getting the vaccine and helps them see through some of the misinformation around it.”
So what does Waldeck plan to do with her winnings? Champagne, caviar and sports cars? Not exactly.
“The first thing I'm doing is paying off all of my debts, like credit cards, school and my car,” Waldeck explains. “But I also want to buy some stuff for the house so my roommates and I can enjoy that space a bit more. The rest is going toward investments, some charitable donations and other long-term goals.”
But despite embodying her state’s trademark pragmatism when considering her winnings, she is eyeing at least one splurge in the near future.
“I always wanted to treat myself to a nice weekend vacation somewhere, so I guess I can actually afford to do that now!”