California announces first winners of $50K prizes in vaccine incentive lottery

National

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday helped draw the first winners of the state’s $116.5 million vaccination lottery.

The winners were the first 15 of 30 to get $50,000 each from the state’s “Vax for the Win” COVID-19 vaccine incentive program, being touted as the biggest in the country.

There were 21.5 million eligible Californians, 15 of whom were picked at random, Newsom said, standing in front of a lottery ball machine during a news conference styled like a game show. Winners selected Friday are from counties including Los Angeles, Orange, Mendocino, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Diego, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.

Any California resident age 12 and older who got at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot is automatically entered to win the cash prizes — regardless of their immigration status.

The next batch of 15 winners to get $50,000 will be announced next Friday, June 11.

On June 15 — the day the state expects to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions — 10 vaccinated Californians will be awarded $1.5 million each.

“If you’re on the fence, if you’re just a little bit hesitant, or you just were unwilling in the past but all of a sudden you think, ‘I can really use $50,000,’ we’re doing all this to encourage that,” the governor said, pushing those who haven’t already to get vaccinated so they’re eligible for the next drawing.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and UC Davis Assistant Nurse Manager Claudio Alvarado select the first 15 Californians to be awarded $50,000 for at the California Lottery Headquarters on Friday. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)

During Friday’s drawing, the winners were identified by an anonymous number and the county they live in. The state will reach out to those winners to let them know they won and request their approval to share their information publicly. No names were announced to protect residents’ privacy.

Prize money will be paid after the winner completes their COVID-19 vaccination series.

Winners will be notified by phone by the California Department of Public Health. If the agency can’t immediately reach them, it will keep trying via telephone, text, email or other contact information associated with the person’s record in the state’s vaccine registry, CDPH said.

But if they can’t reach the winner for 96 hours after the first try, the prize will go to someone else, according to state officials.

During the drawing, alternates are also selected in case winners decline the prizes, can’t be reached, or are otherwise ineligible. Ineligible residents include those who are incarcerated, or employees of CDPH, the California State Lottery, California Health and Human Services and other government workers, as well as their immediate families.

The vaccine incentive program was also giving out $50 prepaid or grocery cards to the first 2 million Californians who got the jab starting on May 27.

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