A 53-year-old Oak Lane man collected $50,000 in the city’s Philly Vax Sweepstakes this week, one of the first big winners in an ongoing lottery designed to incentivize vaccination in Philadelphia.

“When I first received the email that I had won $50,000, I could hardly believe it,” said Daniel Silva, one of two big winners this week. “We’re going to Las Vegas, not to gamble.”

What’s left over he’ll save, he said at a news conference at Delaware Valley Community Health’s Maria de los Santos Health Center.

Philadelphia met the goal earlier this week of giving at least one vaccine dose to 70% of the population, one of the best big city vaccination rates in the country, said Mayor Jim Kenney. But while some of the city’s wealthiest zip codes have the vast majority of their residents vaccinated, others, often in majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, reported less than half the population receiving shots.

That’s a concern, said the city’s Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole, because COVID-19 is still circulating and dangerous. There’s an increasing risk of people contracting the Delta variant, which accounts for 20% of all cases in the United States. That strain of COVID-19 seems to hit younger people harder, she said, and appears to be driving a case surge in Missouri.

Just under half of Philadelphians ages 20 to 44 are vaccinated, city data showed.

“The good news is that being fully vaccinated does seem to be protective against Delta,” she said, “which is why it’s so important that we reach every Philadelphian with this vaccine.”

Bettigole noted a single dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was less effective against the Delta variant than other strains of COVID-19, and encouraged people to get their second doses to get full protection.

Silva received his first vaccine shot in April, he said, but he was initially reluctant to take it. A conversation with his doctor, though, persuaded him to get inoculated.

“I got my shots because my health is a priority and it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The lottery is one facet of the city’s effort to boost vaccination rates. Others include door-to-door canvassing, an ad campaign spotlighting Black and brown health-care workers, and ticket giveaways to people who get vaccinated.

It was unclear Friday how effective the lottery has been at encouraging vaccinations, though data is being evaluated and officials expected insights into its value at the next drawing July 6.

Friday’s announcement was the first of three drawings for the lottery. In each, two residents will each win a $50,000 grand prize, four will be awarded $5,000, and six will get $1,000.

One of this week’s winners forfeited the $5,000 prize, city officials said, because the person had not been vaccinated.

The other $50,000 winner this week declined to be identified, and other winners had not yet been contacted Friday afternoon.

People can register for the sweepstakes, but the city is entering the names of people on a city registry as well. Anyone can enter, but a person has to be vaccinated to claim prizes.

The lottery was designed by University of Pennsylvania researchers and funded by the school. The chances of winning are weighted in favor of residents in undervaccinated zip codes, developers said, and for each drawing the city is selecting one zip code out of 20 with the lowest vaccination rates to benefit from the lottery. Half of the winners will be residents from the highlighted zip code. The odds of a person in the selected zip code winning are 60 times better than others in the city.

Friday’s drawing was designed to focus on the 19126 zip code, which includes parts of East and West Oak Lanes, and half the winners came from that part of the city. The next drawing will focus on the 19133 zip code, which includes Kensington.

The third drawing is scheduled for July 19.

While registration is not required, there are three ways people can ensure they are participants in the sweepstakes:

  • Online at www.PhillyVaxSweeps.com

  • By phone at 1-877-642-5666 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • By texting “Phillyvax” to 215-608-9799