California Pours Millions Into Vaccination Prizes

$116.5M plan is to increase protection before the state's full reopening next month
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2021 6:07 PM CDT
California Ups Ante, Planning $116M in Vaccination Prizes
Lashauna Gipson sits in the observation area after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic last month in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Californians will be eligible for $116.5 million in prize money for getting coronavirus shots, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday, a windfall aimed at getting millions more vaccinated before the nation's most populous state fully reopens next month. California isn't the first state to offer vaccine prizes, though its pot of money is the largest, and so is the most valuable single prize: $1.5 million. The state's reopening is pegged for June 15, and on that day a drawing will be held to award 10 vaccinated people the top prize. Another 30 people will win $50,000 each, the AP reports, with those drawings starting June 4. Anyone 12 and older who has received at least one shot will be eligible. And the next 2 million people who get vaccinated will get $50 gift cards.

The state estimates about 12 million Californians 12 and older have not been vaccinated. About 63% of the 34 million eligible have gotten shots, though the pace has slowed markedly in recent weeks as infection rates have plummeted. Earlier this year, Californians were clamoring for shots, with some driving or waiting in line for hours for one. "Some Californians weren't ready to get their COVID-19 vaccine on Day One, and that's OK. This program is designed to encourage those who need extra support to get vaccinated," said the director of the state’s department of public health. Newsom's office said the program would be aimed at reaching people in communities hit hardest by the pandemic—mainly the poor, Blacks, and Latinos—though it wasn't immediately clear how the money would be tailored to that goal. (Ohio has its first $1 million winner.)

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