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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Friday that nearly 500,000 people entered the state’s Vaccine Incentive Program for the first drawing Friday night.

In all, there were an official total of 495,296 entries eligible for this first round.

Parson announced the program last month, giving both those already vaccinated and those who get the shot the chance to win $10,000. Those from 12-17 years old have a chance at a $10,000 education savings account through Missouri’s MOST 529 program.

During each drawing, 180 winners will be selected. A total of 900 individuals will be rewarded through MO VIP through October. Anyone who has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the deadline can enter for the drawings.

The state will publicly announce the first round of confirmed winners on Aug. 25, which is also the deadline for the second drawing.

Parson said he excited to start the drawing.

“MO VIP is playing a role in driving up vaccinations in our state,” Parson said. “As governor, I have worked hard to ensure that vaccines are widely available to all Missourians and focused on encouraging our citizens to get the facts from trusted experts. We’re excited to celebrate the winners and their choice to become vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Since the program was launched on July 21, the state’s vaccine dashboard online shows more than 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered. Over 180,000 people initiated the vaccination in the same period.

As of Friday, 50% of Missouri’s 12-and-older population has been fully vaccinated.

It’s better news for a state that’s struggling to fight off COVID-19 and the delta variant.

“Everyone who gets vaccinated and enters this drawing is a winner in my mind, regardless of whether they receive a prize,” the Missouri health department’s Acting Director Robert Knodell said. “We know the vaccines give protection against severe illness, hospitalizations and death we have seen with COVID-19 – that’s the true definition of winning.”

With Missouri hospitals filling up, state leaders have been urging residents to get vaccinated. Earlier this week, Parson told Missourians it’s time to roll up their sleeves.

“We understand some are hesitant towards getting the vaccine but now is the time to step up and take personal responsibility to protect yourself and loved ones by getting vaccinated,” the governor said.