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California unveils $116M vaccine incentive program

A health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a resident at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California, in March. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $116.5 million incentive contest to encourage more people to get inoculated against the virus before June 15 when the majority of the state's COVID-19 restrictions are scheduled to be repealed. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
A health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a resident at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California, in March. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $116.5 million incentive contest to encourage more people to get inoculated against the virus before June 15 when the majority of the state's COVID-19 restrictions are scheduled to be repealed. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

May 27 (UPI) -- California on Thursday unveiled a $116.5 million vaccine incentive program in an effort to boost vaccinations ahead of the state removing most COVID-19 restrictions on June 15.

The office of Gov. Gavin Newsom said the effort is to give unvaccinated Californians "an extra nudge" to receive the life saving jab.

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"Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic," Newsom said in a statement, while applauding the state's fight against COVID-19. "But we aren't stopping there, we're doing everything it takes to get Californians vaccinated as we approach June 15 to help us fully reopen safely."

The multi-million-dollar Vax for the Win campaign consists of several cash-incentive draws.

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On June 15, 10 vaccinated Californians will be selected to split a $15 million grand prize. Another 30 inoculated Californians, with 15 to be chosen Friday, June 4, and the others selected Friday, June 11, will receive $50,000 each.

To be eligible, one most be 12 years of age or older and have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. If a minor wins, the money will be put into a savings account until they become legally an adult.

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The remaining $100 million will be distributed to 2 million vaccinated Californians though either a $50 grocery gift card from Kroger or Albertsons or a $50 virtual prepaid card that can be spent online or in stores where major debit cards are accepted. To qualify, the first 2 million people who begin and then complete their vaccine regimen of shots starting Thursday will be automatically entered to win.

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According to statistics from the government of California, more than 17 million people have been fully vaccinated accounting for 50% of its population with another 4.3 million for roughly 13% of the population having received one dose of the two-dose regimen.

The governor's office said that while 62.8% of those in the state above the age of 12 are at least partially vaccinated, some 12 million others eligible for the shot have not gotten it.

"Some Californians weren't ready to get their COVID-19 vaccine on day one, and that's okay," said Dr. Tomas J. Aragon, the state's public health officer. "This program is designed to encourage those who need extra support to get vaccinated and help keep California safe."

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The incentive program is the latest, and possibly the largest, by states seeking to increase the number of vaccinated residents.

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Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, on May 12 announced the Vax-a-Million lottery offering vaccinated residents a chance to win $1 million or a full scholarship to an Ohio university of their choosing.

DeWine announced its first winners of Thursday as Abigail Bugenske, who took home the $1 million prize, and Joseph Costello as the winner of a full scholarship. The state's next draw is on Sunday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday unveiled the "Get a Shot to Make Your Future" contest giving those between the ages of 12 and 17 a chance to win one of 50 full scholarships including tuition, room and board.

The Biden administration has supported these initiatives, with the Treasury on Tuesday releasing new guidance on how federal funds in the American Rescue Plan can be used for these programs.

The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package President Joe Biden signed into being in March.

Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor on the coronavirus response, told reporters Tuesday that DeWine had "unlocked a secret."

He said Ohio saw a 55% increase in vaccinations among those 20 to 49 years old after the campaign.

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"We encourage states to use their creativity to draw attention to vaccines and to get their states and the country back to normal as quickly as possible," he said.

Other states, such as Maryland and Oregon, have also unveiled similar incentive programs.

California life in the COVID-19 pandemic

A pedestrian walks past a bar established in 1933 after Los Angeles County officials closed it for the second time following a spike in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles on August 10. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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