Who is Abbey Bugenske? Ohio woman, 22, wins $1M Covid-19 vaccine lottery

Who is Abbey Bugenske? Ohio woman, 22, wins $1M Covid-19 vaccine lottery
Ohio resident Abbey Bugenske won the Vax-a-Million lottery for $1M (Office of Ohio Governor)

On May 26, Ohio announced its first winner of the state’s $1 million Vax-a-Million lottery. The scheme was aimed at encouraging more and more people to book Covid-19 vaccination shots. The lucky winner of the state lottery was 22-year-old Abbey Bugenske, a resident of a Cincinnati suburb.

As a responsible citizen to protect her friends and relatives, she had taken the shot before the lottery was even announced. She was on her way to a four-hour drive to Cleveland when she received the call about winning the vaccine lottery. Bugenske thought it was a prank call when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine surprised her with the news of an "accidentally encountered" fortune. 


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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Bugenske had never thought that getting vaccinated would result in her receiving a fortune. Her social media following increased dramatically and her phone wouldn't stop ringing after the news became public. "I still can't believe it. It was a crazy night," she said. “I was screaming enough that my parents thought I was crying and that something was wrong,” she said in a press conference on Thursday, May 27. “And when I started yelling that I won $1 million and was going to be a millionaire, they told me to calm down and make sure it wasn't a prank."

“Vaccines have always been in my medical history. It was a pretty easy decision to go and get the vaccine as fast as I could,” she added. “I would encourage anyone to get the vaccine. If winning $1 million isn’t enough, I don’t know what would be.” Bugenske also mentioned that she hasn't decided on the plans to spend the money yet, but she will donate some and some will go towards her new car. The rest will likely be invested, she added. “Last night, I pretty much just ignored my phone. Going forward, I still don’t have a plan,” she said.

Who is Abbey Bugenske?

Bugenske was raised in the Cleveland area. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and is pursuing a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Ohio State University. Bugenske moved to Silverton, just a few miles outside Cincinnati, for a job with General Electric. 

She was one of 2.76M adult entries in the lottery drawing, which is set to take place for five consecutive Wednesdays. In the state, about 39 per cent of the residents or 4.6M people have received the dose as of Thursday morning, May 27. “I felt like we needed to create some excitement and interest. This decision also came directly out of my visits from vaccination sites around the state,” Ohio governor DeWine said at a press conference.

“As we talked to people being vaccinated, it became clear some would get it or might get it, but there was no sense of urgency. The faster we can get people vaccinated, the better it is," the governor added. When the governor had announced the incentive program, he had said, "I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,but with the vaccine now readily available, the real waste, is a life lost to Covid-19."

Bugenske was one of two winners announced on Wednesday, May 26. Joseph Costello, 14, of Englewood, was the other winner who won a four-year scholarship to any Ohio college he chooses. Costello maintained that he doesn’t know what he will study yet but he’ll probably choose Miami University in Ohio or Ohio State University.

More than 2.7M signed up for the $1M prizes and more than 104,000 children ages 12 to 17 entered the draw for the college scholarship, which includes tuition, room and board, and books. Four more $1M and college scholarships are yet to be announced. The announcements will be made every Wednesday.

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