Governor Gavin Newsom, in announcing California's $116.5 million vaccine giveaway, cites the incentive is needed to get to 80 percent immunity though the state is already ahead of most of the world in vaccinations. | Credit: Courtesy

Minnesota is offering fishing licenses, West Virginia is giving away new pickup trucks, and Ohio — the first to offer cash for COVID vaccinations — is minting five new millionaires, but California has them all beat. On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced 10 people would win $1.5 million on June 15 as part of the Golden State’s new $116.5 million vaccination incentive program.

Two-thirds of all adults in California have gotten a shot, but the past three weeks showed a steady decline, Newsom said. “We are mindful that if we continue down this path and trend, we’re not going to get to where all of us need to be. And that is north of 70 percent of all eligible Californians getting administered doses of this life-saving vaccine, or to getting our kids back, in person, five days a week, for full instruction, to get our economy moving and humming across every sector and every industry.”

The magic number has been 80 percent for herd immunity against COVID-19, and Newsom said his team recognized how hard it will be get beyond 70 percent and all the way to 80. “We can’t afford to run the 90-yard dash,” Newsom said. “We have to finish the job.” COVID was not going to take Memorial Day weekend off, he added, and giving incentives to take the vaccine was “as wise a use of resources as we can identify.” It doesn’t hurt that the California budget surplus is an incredible $75 billion, which analysts attribute to the technology sector, its associated markets, and employees’ ability to remain productive from home during the pandemic.

As in the state, Santa Barbara County’s vaccinations are led by second doses — swinging from a high of 4,600 on May 5 and down to 200 on May 23 — while first doses are much fewer, roughly in the 500 range per day during the end of May. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine had fewer than 100 doses per day in late May. Countywide, 51.2 percent of residents 12 years and older are fully vaccinated, and 62.8 percent have received one dose.

Supply is no longer an issue, and while some people are still waiting to decide, if anything, “people are more selective about which vaccine they want and under what circumstances — outside versus inside, small venue versus larger venue,” said Jackie Ruiz, spokesperson for county Public Health. Walk-up clinics are popular as quick and no-appointment-needed, and school-based vaccine clinics have been successful at vaccinating whole families, Ruiz noted.

The state plans to reopen completely on June 15, which is one reason for the unprecedented cash prizes. “Now is the time to take your shot!” Ruiz said.

Newsom spoke from Evan Torres High School in La Habra, which was offering the free vaccine to students and their family members at a mobile clinic. They were apparently nearby, as Newsom said the students next door would be the first to get a first-come, first-served grocery-store or MasterCard incentive worth $50. Two million cards would go out — “For a family of four, do the math; for a family of six, do the math,” Newsom said — until the $100 million incentive program was exhausted.

Even before the $1.5 million drawing takes place, the name of every state resident who’d had a vaccination would be put in drawings for $50,000 in cash on June 4 and 11, and 15 people would win on each Friday. “All 12 year olds, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 year olds are eligible,” Newsom emphasized, adding that the win would be “for your education; start a business; dream a little differently; support your friends, family; do the right thing and set aside most of that money; maybe give it to charity,” and that the money would be reserved until the winner reached age 18.

About the only people ineligible are incarcerated individuals, those who are not permanent California residents, and members of state government connected to the drawings. Other details included: Moderna and Pfizer vaccine recipients would get their prize money after their second dose, the identity of winners would be confidential, and getting those first doses to enter “Vax for the Win” can be found at, or (833) 422-4245. In Santa Barbara County, vaccination appointments are widely available, as are walk-up clinics, all of which can be found at or by dialing 2-1-1, option 4.

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