The state of California will offer $116.5 million in cash and gift cards to residents who get coronavirus vaccines before June 15, the latest – and most lucrative – incentive by U.S. states desperate to convince vaccine-skeptics and laggards to get the jab.
The move by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is part of a bid to increase the rate of vaccinations as the state prepares to fully reopen its economic sector on June 15. Ten Californians who become vaccinated before that date stand to win lottery-style prizes of $1.5 million apiece, while another 30 people will each win $50,000.
The state said that beginning Thursday, the first 2 million Californians to become inoculated will each win $50 gift cards for cash or groceries.
Dr. Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health, said “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 and help keep California safe,” Aragon added.
With a few exceptions, all Californians who became inoculated since vaccinations were first available in the state will be entered into drawings for the larger prizes, Newsom said during a Los Angeles news conference on Thursday.
The incentives are being offered as Newsom is fighting off a recall campaign that has become a cause celebre among Republicans nationwide. It is one of many ways that Newsom plans to spend an unprecedented state budget surplus.
He said “getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic.”
On Wednesday, Ohio awarded $1 million to Abbigail Bugenske, a Silverton woman who entered the state’s Vax-a-Million drawing. Joseph Costello, a high school student from Inglewood, won a full-ride scholarship, including books, tuition, room and board at an Ohio public university or college.