California Announces Prizes Up to $1.5M for Those With COVID-19 Vaccine

Californians who have received their vaccines are already entered to win the cash prizes

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced incentives to encourage Californians to get their COVID-19 vaccine with a $116.5 million program – the largest vaccine incentive program in the U.S.

Newsom made the announcement Thursday as the state ramps up efforts to vaccinate as many residents as possible ahead of the June 15 targeted reopening date. The program includes:

  • 10 winners selected on June 15 to win cash prizes of $1.5 million each. Any Californian ages 12 or over who has had at least one dose of the vaccine will be eligible to win -- no entry necessary. If a minor wins, the funds will be put into a savings account until they turn 18;
  • 30 winners selected on “$50,000 Fridays. ”Fifteen winners will be selected on June 4 and fifteen more will be chosen on June 11 to win a $50,000 cash prize each. If a minor wins, the funds will be put into a savings account until they turn 18;
  • The next 2 million Californians who begin and complete their COVID-19 vaccinations, starting Thursday, will be eligible to receive a $50 virtual prepaid card or a $50 grocery gift card for Kroger or Albertsons while supplies last.

Californians who have received their vaccines are already entered to win the cash prizes, the state said. There is no need to enter. The state also guaranteed privacy for those who win prizes.

NBC 7's Allison Ash breaks down the way Californians can win prizes for getting or being vaccinated.

Newsom said they based their incentive program on research conducted by UCLA that showed 31% of people surveyed were more likely to get vaccinated if there was an incentive involved, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Vaccination efforts have slowed as people who were eager to get a COVID-19 vaccine are inoculated. It is harder for the state to reach those who are more hesitant.

"California has outpaced the nation in terms of average percentage of population that has been vaccinated," Newsom said. “That said, we have seen a reduction in the number of people looking to get access to this vaccine."

Newsom said there has been a decline in the seven-day average of doses administered. 2.1 million people received doses three weeks ago, which lowered to 2 million people 2 weeks ago and 1.9 million people in the last 7 days. At the peak of California's vaccination effort, 3 million doses were administered.

California COVID-19 Vaccinations

The map tracks the number of doses administered by a recipient's county of residence according to the The California Department of Public Health.

Source: The statewide totals for doses administered reflect Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Otherwise we used data from the California Department of Public Health
Amy O’Kruk/NBC

"We are mindful that if we continue down this path and this trend we’re not going to get where all of us need to be – and that is north of 70% of all eligible Californians getting administered doses of this life-saving vaccine," Newsom said.

President Joe Biden has set a goal to get 70% of the eligible U.S. population vaccinated by July 4. Newsom said he still believes California can hit that threshold.

As of May 26, about 16.87 million of the state's 39.5 million residents have been fully vaccinated. About 63% of the 34 million people eligible have received at least one dose, leaving about 12 million eligible Californians who have not yet received a shot, according to the state.

The expensive incentive program is sure to be criticized by some as a bad use of California's public revenue. To critics, Newsom said it was a better use of dollars than the alternative -- continuing through this public health crisis.

"I think worse spending is to bury your head in the sand and continue to do what you’ve done and not achieve the goals of getting us all back on our feet," Newsom said. "The cost of not getting vaccinated is exponentially, incalculably higher."

Gov. Newsom said California is still on track to ease reopening restrictions for most businesses on June 15, including social distancing mandates and capacity limitations. Some mandates, like utilizing face masks in some situations, will still be required.

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