The state of Maryland will provide $1 million in college scholarships for Marylanders between the ages of 12 and 17 who get vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Larry Hogan announced during a press conference Wednesday at the University of Maryland.

The VaxU Scholarship Promotion, which is a result of a partnership between the Maryland Department of Health and Maryland Higher Education Commission, begins July 12 and will last through Labor Day. Every week, two winners will receive a $50,000 scholarship or the equivalent of full tuition and fees at any public, in-state institution, Hogan said. 

And on Labor Day, four winners will be chosen, totaling 20 winners total, he added. 

To be entered to win, children between the ages of 12 and 17 just need to receive their vaccination. Children between those ages who have already been vaccinated will be automatically entered to win a scholarship, Hogan noted. 

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the only authorized vaccine in the United States for those in the 12 to 17 age group.

“Promotions like this are just one more way that we are reinforcing the importance of getting every single Marylander that we can vaccinated against COVID-19, especially our young people,” Hogan said during the briefing. 

The winners, who will be notified by the state health department and higher education commission, will receive either a Maryland 529 Prepaid College Trust contract or a Maryland 529 College Investment Plan, Hogan said. 

[Maryland incentivizes COVID-19 vaccination with lottery prizes up to $400K]

The contract locks in today’s tuition rates at any institution of higher education in Maryland. The plan, however, sets up a savings account that can be used at any U.S. college, technical or trade school. The savings must be used for eligible expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, textbooks or course-specific fees and supplies, according to the Maryland 529 website. 

If a winner decides to attend a private or out-of-state school, the scholarship can be transferred to their school of choice. The scholarship funds have been provided by the American Rescue Plan. 

Hogan also provided updates on the status of vaccinations in the state and encouraged residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. As of Wednesday, Hogan said the state is one of the most vaccinated in the country and the number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations has continued to fall. 

Approximately 92.1 percent of Marylanders over 65 and 75.2 percent of adults in the state have been vaccinated, Hogan said. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is 0.73 and its case rate per 100,000 people is 1.08, making the rates among the lowest in the country, Hogan said. Hospitalizations also decreased from a high of 2,000 to 133, he added. 

Although the vaccines have been proven to be effective, Hogan emphasized that those who have not yet been vaccinated are vulnerable to COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly across the U.S. and other countries. 

“It is clearer than ever that these vaccines are extremely effective, but those who are unvaccinated do remain at risk, especially with the highly transmissible variants,” Hogan said. 

Approximately 95 percent of new COVID-19 cases last month in Maryland were from unvaccinated people and about 93 percent of new hospitalizations were also unvaccinated residents, Hogan added. All of the COVID-19 deaths in Maryland reported in June were also unvaccinated people. 

“If you have not gotten your vaccine, the virus and its variants are a dangerous threat to you,” Hogan said. “Getting vaccinated is the only way to protect yourself and to continue on our recovery.”