Vaccinated Californians will have a chance to win part of $16.5 million in cash prizes next month as state officials attempt to incentivize more residents to get their first shot, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
Starting Thursday, all Californians who get their first vaccine dose in the coming days will receive one of 2 million $50 gift cards on a first-come, first-served basis through the state’s Vax for the Win program.
For all state residents who get vaccinated or have already been vaccinated, the state will hold drawings on June 4 and 11 to select a total of 30 residents to receive $50,000 cash prizes.
On June 15, the state will hold a final drawing, in which state residents that have received at least one vaccine dose will be eligible for one of 10 $1.5 million cash prizes.
Newsom touted that California now has the lowest COVID-19 test positivity and case rate of any state in the country, due in large part to the state administering at least one dose to 21.4 million state residents.
“We are well on our way of not only reach that 70 percent (vaccinated) number that President Biden has advanced, but we’re on the way of doing that well before that Fourth of July date that he has set,” Newsom said Thursday at a briefing on the lottery-esque incentives.
“That said, we have seen a reduction in the number of people looking to get access to this vaccine,” he added.
In the last week, vaccines have been administered to some 1.9 million people across the state, down from the nearly 3 million people that were getting vaccinated per week at the peak of the state’s vaccination efforts.
Newsom added that a significant portion of those 1.9 million doses is also the second vaccination in a two-shot series, further reducing the true number of residents that are seeking out their first vaccine dose.
“You can see that cliff coming in the next week or two,” the governor said.
Newsom added that the state’s drop off has not yet been as steep as some other states that have begun offering incentives like cash prize drawings, free hunting licenses and vouchers for retail stores and restaurants in an effort to get more people vaccinated.
California’s drawings and cash prizes – which Newsom made a point to note are not related to the California State Lottery – will be open to nearly all residents, regardless of immigration status, provided they are age 12 or older and that they complete their vaccination series.
A handful of demographics will not be included in the drawings, including people incarcerated within the state’s prison system, people who got vaccinated in the state but are not current residents and people who work at the highest levels of state government “like me,” Newsom said.
Should a minor win one of the cash prizes, the state plans to hold their winnings in a savings account until they turn 18.
In addition, the $50 gift cards – which can be accepted as a general prepaid Mastercard or a gift card to grocery store chains owned by Kroger or Albertsons – will only be disbursed once an awardee has completed their two-dose Pfizer or Modern vaccine series or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination.
Gift cards will be reserved for those who get their first dose starting Thursday, according to state officials. Awardees will receive a gift card code via text message or email 7-10 days after their final vaccine dose.
Residents who don’t have a mobile phone, email address or permanent residence can contact (833) 993-3873, 7-10 days after their final dose, to request a physical gift card or coordinate delivery.
For the larger cash prizes, all residents who have been vaccinated will be automatically entered into the drawings, Newsom said.
Winners will also be kept anonymous unless they allow their names to become public, according to Newsom.
“These are an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to those not only seeking to get vaccinated as we move forward but also those who have been vaccinated since we first availed those opportunities a number of months ago,” Newsom said.