TRAVERSE CITY — When Johnathon Barraw got the call that he won $50,000 in the Michigan COVID vaccine lottery he thought it was a prank call.
“I kind of froze,” Barraw said.
When the lottery representative swore on his three children’s lives that it wasn’t a joke, reality sunk in for 27-year-old Barraw, who has two children of his own.
Barraw got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine on July 8. Three days later he found out he was a winner.
“I’ve never won anything, period,” Barraw said, though he once came close to winning a teddy bear at a jewelry store.
Barraw said his decision to get the vaccine was not influenced by the state’s July 1 announcement that it was giving out $5 million in prize money to anyone vaccinated by July 30. He had been planning to get the vaccine, but was skeptical. He has trust issues, he said, and the vaccine was just too new.
But he was working at a restaurant around fryers all day and was wearing a mask because of his unvaccinated status. One day he worked a 17-hour shift and ended up at a walk-in clinic with a partially collapsed lung, he said.
He knew he had to get the vaccine to protect his own health, as well as the health of his children.
The demand for the vaccine has tapered off in the last couple of months and the MI Shot To Win lottery has not changed that demand. About 63 percent of the state’s residents 16 and older have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data tracker.
That number has risen only about 1 percent since the lottery announcement.
An increase in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths is being seen across the country, mostly among the unvaccinated, according to the CDC. The vaccine has been shown to be effective against the highly-transmissible Delta variant — the cause of the latest outbreak.
Barraw was born and raised in Traverse City, but has lived all over the state. He moved back to the area about three years ago after seeing his future girlfriend’s picture on social media.
“I thought she was cute so I sent her a message,” he said. When he met Courtney Patterson in person it was a done deal.
“I knew as soon as I looked into her eyes that she was going to be the one. We knew right then and there that it was done. And it’s just been getting better.”
The couple will marry next month and Barraw said he’d like to invest his winnings in a house. He’s thinking about buying a few acres of land and putting to good use the skills he learned in high school building three Habitat for Humanity homes.
That way his great-grandchildren may someday also enjoy his lottery jackpot, he said.