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California Offering Cash Prizes for the Lucky and Vaccinated

Ten people.

$1.5 million.

All they need is a little luck.

And …

A little vaccine.

If this sounds like the world’s most boring reality show, tough, because it’s coming to California and it’s for a good cause. In what the state is cleverly calling “Vax for the Win,” an incentive program for residents to get their shots before the planned June 15 elimination of nearly all COVID restrictions, the state will distribute $116 million in cash prizes to people who are at least partially vaccinated.

The rules:

Any resident 12 and older with at least one shot is automatically entered to win one of 30 $50,000 cash prize drawings on June 4 and June 11.

Then, on June 15, $1.5 million will go to each of 10 winners.

Any winner who has received a first shot only will have to complete their immunization in order to collect the prize. For the lucky vaccinated under 18, the money will go into a savings account until they come of age.

But wait. There’s more …

Starting Thursday, “the next 2 million people who begin and complete their COVID-19 vaccination will automatically be eligible to receive a $50 prepaid or grocery card,” said the state. If you win, you’ll get a message with a redemption code sent to your mobile phone or email address. Those without either can call 1-833-993-3873, seven to 10 days after their final dose.

“Can be for your education, can start a business,” Gov. Gavin Newsom offered Thursday, after announcing the program. “You can dream a little bit differently. You can help support your friends, family. Can do the right thing and set aside most of that money, maybe give it to charity. But that will be your decision.”

About 63% of Californians ages 12 and older are at least partially vaccinated, according to the state, with an estimated 12 million eligible people who have yet to get a shot.

In terms of awesome vaccine-related lottery names, California has to compete with VaxCash in Maryland, Vax and Scratch in New York, and Take Your Shot, Oregon. On Wednesday, a 22-year-old woman won $1 million in Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” contest.

—Jon Brooks

Copyright 2021 KQED