For Trent Fingler, getting vaccinated wasn't about winning $100,000 — it was about being safe and returning to a normal way of life.
The 22-year-old from Winnipeg is one of seven Manitobans who won the province's Vax to Win lottery. Winners were announced Tuesday.
"I got vaccinated because... I trust the scientific and medical personnel who have dedicated their life's work to understanding and preventing these diseases," Fingler said at a news conference. "They understand it better than the vast majority of people on this planet, and they're trying their absolute best to make it possible that we can return to some amount of normalcy."
He received a large symbolic cheque from the province at the Leila Avenue supersite. He and the six other lucky vaxxers took photos with their $100,000 cheques, which they'd won for getting at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab by Aug. 2.
Fingler, who works as a painter, said he's frustrated by people who don't get their shots.
"The amount of misinformation is not only a little irritating... but it's legitimate and dangerous moving forward, because you have these echo chambers," he said. "If you look for misinformation, you are going to find it."
Garth Deleske, another Winnipegger who took home $100,000 for getting vaccinated, had a similar view.
"I wish the conspiracy theories and the negativity would stop, and people would do their part," the 55-year-old said. "Get in there, get vaccinated and help your community. Help the global population, help the people next to you — it's easy."
Deleske didn't learn about the province's Vax to Win campaign — which is an incentive for Manitobans to get vaccinated — until after he'd had his doses. However, he's supportive of the concept.
"It's a great idea, for sure," he said. "Anything to aid the increase in the vaccination rates."
Manitobans who received their first dose before Aug. 2 were automatically entered into the lottery. Manitoba split its prizes by health region: Deleske, Fingler and Kerry Maskiew from Winnipeg won, as did Jacqueline Martel from Southern Health, John Lyons from Prairie Mountain, Dustin McDuffe from the Interlake-Eastern region and Bernell Lavallee from the north.
The province will write another seven $100,000 cheques to names pulled in September's Vax to Win round. To qualify, Manitobans must have had two doses of vaccine by Sept. 6. The winners will be announced later that month.
"Did the vaccine lottery by itself make a difference? I don't know," Manny Atwal, the president and CEO of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, told the Free Press. "But I do know it's... one of the tools that we use in getting more and more people vaccinated... which means people can get out there faster."
He said the lottery incentive has had a positive effect, but often, several things are needed to change people's minds, including access to information.
"Whatever it takes to help, that's what we're trying to do," he said.
The first round of Vax to Win is not over: 10 youths, aged 12 through 17, will receive $25,000 scholarships for getting their first doses. Their names will be revealed on Aug. 23, said Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton, who hosted the announcement.
Manitoba will award another 10 scholarships in September, in the final stage of Vax to Win.
At least 81 per cent of eligible Manitobans have one or more doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the province's website on Tuesday.
About 74 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The province's goal is to have 75 per cent of eligible Manitobans double-vaccinated by Labour Day. Then, it plans to reopen all facilities and businesses, with limited restrictions in some cases.
Winnipeg-based technology company Funding Change operated the Vax to Win lottery system.
"The process seems to have worked quite well... when we did it live," said CEO Nicholas Tenszen. "Everything was smooth, so we'll probably just do it again (in September)."
Manitobans' personal health information is not transferred from Manitoba Health for the lottery. Instead, Funding Change gets an encrypted file which its system uses to pick winners.
The province has not announced the September lottery date.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.