EDMONTON -- Premier Jason Kenney took to Twitter on Saturday evening to launch Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination lottery to help incentivize people to get immunized and drive the push to the next reopening stage.

There will be three $1 million prizes among other winnings. The first prize will be open to all Albertans aged 18 and over who receive their first dose prior to the province reaching the 70 per cent threshold needed to move to Stage 3 of the reopening plan.

“Thank you so much to the 68 per cent of Albertans who have gone out of their way to get at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. “Thanks to you, we crushed the spring spike of COVID and we are starting our lives back to normal.”

Kenney added in the video message that the province is simply “not getting enough demand” for vaccines.

“That’s why Alberta today is announcing that we are launching the open for summer vaccine lottery,” he said.

The premier had been saying some form of vaccine incentive could be offered by the province to boost uptake since May.

According to the premier, more details will be released next week about the other prizes and how the other two $1 million draws will be awarded.

Kenney said that the cost of the lottery will be “easily” covered by future savings of residents not contracting or spreading COVID-19.

“We need to just nudge those who haven’t gotten around to getting their vaccines yet,” Kenney said. “Please do your part, because now a vaccine shot is also your shot at $1 million.” 

Several businesses in Alberta have offered perks, discounts, free food or beverages for those who have been immunized against COVID-19. The University of Lethbridge created a contest to grant free tuition to nine lucky vaccinated students.

As of Saturday, approximately 68.5 per cent of those eligible for vaccination in Alberta have received their first dose — an increase of 0.7 per cent since Friday.

More than 19 per cent of the population aged 12 and older in Alberta are fully vaccinated, representing 16.3 per cent of the overall population in the province.

To move to Step 3 of the reopening plan, 70 per cent or more Albertans need to receive their first immunization.

Stage 3 would lift all remaining public health restrictions and permit indoor social gatherings. It would take effect two weeks after the vaccine threshold is reached.

The winner of the first $1 million lottery will be drawn when Stage 3 begins.

According to the premier's office, there are 64,535 appointments booked over the next seven days for first doses. The government is projecting Alberta will hit the 70 per cent threshold required for Stage 3 and start the two week waiting period to reopening on June 18.

"The arrival and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines in our province have accomplished extraordinary things," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro, in a statement. "It's only fitting that we respond in kind with a once-in-a-lifetime event in Alberta. This lottery is an investment in Albertans and our province's economic future.

"I am confident that we will see that final upswing in vaccinations to take us across that finish line to widespread immunity."