California officials who have spent months urging residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus now hope US$116.5 million in prizes will sweeten the deal. The prize will be awarded once the victor has completed their vaccination series.
Under the state's new "Vax for the Win" campaign, launched Thursday, residents 12 years or older who are at least partially vaccinated will be eligible for cash prizes awarded in a series of three drawings in June.
Following the lead of states including New York, Oregon and OH, the Golden State State is the latest to implement an incentive system to boost vaccinations and ensure a safe reopening, which is scheduled for June 15.
California was vaccinated 3 million people at the peak last month, but that has declined to 1.9 million per week, with a lot of those being second doses.
Another 30 people will win $50,000 each, with those drawings starting June 4. In addition to the cash prize, 50 dollar gift cards are also being given to the first two million Californians who complete their COVID-19 vaccination. Nearly 63% of Californians aged 12 and older have received a vaccine dose, and case rates are now the lowest in the nation, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
"We've got to get those first-dose numbers up", Newsom said at a press conference in Los Angeles.
OH this week announced the first US$1 million victor of its "Vax-a-Million" contest, as well as the first child to win a full college scholarship.
With those ages 12 to 15 newly able to receive the Pfizer vaccine, California officials estimate there are now 12 million people who are eligible and have not taken the shot yet.
"This is 100 million more reasons that Gavin Newsom must be recalled", he said, referencing the amount the state will give out in gift cards.
Newsom's office said the program would be aimed at reaching people in communities hardest hit by the pandemic - mainly the poor, Blacks and Latinos - though it wasn't immediately clear how the money would be tailored to fit that goal.
Surveys have shown unvaccinated Latinos are twice as likely as whites to want a vaccine but may be unable to get time off work, live far from a vaccination site, or fear they'll be charged for a shot, she said.
Several states and localities have launched efforts to incentivize vaccination against COVID-19 in recent weeks amid concerns from public health experts that vaccine hesitancy is a major roadblock in the way of the USA reaching herd immunity against the virus.
"We can't afford to run the 90-yard dash", he said.
By contrast, less than a quarter of people in the most advantaged areas haven't been vaccinated.