Virus Outbreak California Vaccine Jackpot

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, at podium, announces a massive jackpot as the nation's most populous state looks to encourage millions of people who are still unvaccinated to get their shots at a news conference at the Esteban E. Torres High School in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

(The Center Square) – California officials are giving away millions of dollars in a COVID-19 vaccination lottery, following the lead of other states.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced “Vax for the Win,” a multiwinner vaccine lottery he hopes will increase the number of residents that will roll up their sleeves. 

The lottery is open to anyone age 12 and older who is at least partially vaccinated. The state will announce 30 winners for “$50,000 Fridays” on June 4 and June 11. Newsom will announce 10 winners June 15, the day the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are set to expire. Those 10 winners will go home with $1.5 million each.

State officials told CalMatters the lottery will be paid for using emergency funds but will be reimbursed with federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic,” Newsom said. “California has already made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, with the lowest case rates in the country, while administering millions more vaccines than any other state.” 

The next 2 million eligible residents who get vaccinated are automatically eligible for $100 million in $50 gift cards. The cards are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

To qualify, entrants must be state residents age 12 and older who have at least begun the inoculation process and must get their second shot to receive any winnings. Underaged winners would see their prize deposited into a savings account and given to them on their 18th birthday. All Californians age 12 and older who are at least partially vaccinated are automatically eligible. 

As of Thursday, 63% of the state’s residents age 12 and older are at least partially vaccinated. Officials estimate 12 million people have yet to be vaccinated.

“Some Californians weren’t ready to get their COVID-19 vaccine on day one, and that’s okay. This program is designed to encourage those who need extra support to get vaccinated and help keep California safe,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, California Department of Public Health director and state public health officer. “The State will work closely with our partners at local health departments and community-based organizations to ensure the program reaches families living in communities with the lowest vaccination rates, who might face language barriers and other obstacles.”

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.