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West Virginia is now offering a series of prizes to encourage residents who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots. The giveaways include a $1.6 million grand prize, a $588,000 second prize, custom-outfitted trucks, hunting rifles and shotguns, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, scholarships at state colleges and weekend stays at state parks.

The state will hold seven drawings from June 17 through Aug. 2. West Virginians who have already received their vaccinations also are eligible to enter. You can register at

That is the web address because Gov. Jim Justice has decided that his English bulldog is the official mascot of the sweepstakes. “Do It For Babydog: Save a Life. Change Your Life.”

Suggesting that people should get vaccinated during a pandemic at the request of a sour-mugged dog is silly. But you know what? Silly is okay.

We have been battling this pandemic for going on a year and a half. According to Department of Health and Human Resources figures, 2,821 West Virginians have died. Another 127,011 people have contracted the virus. The restrictions because of COVID-19 have dramatically affected our daily lives.

None of the effects are the least bit funny, but that is not to say we couldn’t use a little humor.

Nurse: “So, why have you decided to get your vaccination today?”

Patient: “I’m doing it for Babydog.”

It is absurd, but ridiculousness can be funny. And laughter or, at the very least, contemplating something funny, is healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic’s information page on stress management, “Whether you’re guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughter does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.”

Of course, our motivation is not all about following a dog’s lead. The cash and prizes are the real payoff. I have said before that we should not have to be bribed to do the right thing. However, since more people must be vaccinated to broaden immunity, and participation has slowed significantly, offering prizes is a practical option.

In the interest of full disclosure, I signed up yesterday and allowed myself to fantasize for a moment about what I would do with the money or a tricked out pickup. I am not counting on winning, of course, but the experience was fun.

I suspect we will get tired of Babydog pretty quickly. Gimmicks have a short shelf life. And dragging your beloved bulldog into other campaigns will not work. Just imagine: “Pass my income tax plan. Do it for Babydog!”

But for now, for a short while during this vaccination push, why not “Do it for Babydog,” with a smile and a chance for a prize? We will all be better for it.

Hoppy Kercheval hosts “Talkline,” on MetroNews.

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