California will offer $116.5 million US in cash and gift cards to residents who get COVID-19 vaccinations before June 15, the latest — and most lucrative — incentive by U.S. states desperate to persuade laggards and vaccine skeptics to get the injection.
The move by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is part of an effort to boost vaccinations as the state prepares to fully reopen its economy on June 15.
Ten Californians who become inoculated before that date stand to win lottery-style prizes of $1.5 million US apiece, while another 30 people will each win $50,000.
Beginning Thursday, the first two million Californians to become vaccinated will each win $50 gift cards for cash or groceries, the state said.
“Some Californians weren’t ready to get their COVID-19 vaccine on day one, and that’s OK,” said Dr. Tomas Aragon, director of California’s public health department.
“This program is designed to encourage those who need extra support to get vaccinated and help keep California safe.”
Funds redirected from budget surplus
The incentives are being offered as Newsom is fighting off a recall campaign that has become a cause celèbre among Republicans U.S.-wide. It is one of many ways that Newsom plans to spend an unprecedented state budget surplus.
“Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic,” Newsom said.
Across the United States, states and private organizations have offered incentives to persuade people to become inoculated against COVID-19, which has killed nearly 3.7 million people worldwide.
The incentives range from free baseball tickets and beer to college scholarships and cash.
On Wednesday, Ohio awarded $1 million US 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 tuition, books and room and board at an Ohio public university or college.
Earlier this month in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, announced that city subway riders would get free seven-day passes to the system for getting inoculated at station sites that were dispensing Johnson & Johnson vaccines.