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What you need to know about California's COVID-19 vaccine lottery

People who have received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot in California could win up to $1.5 million in the "Vax for the Win" incentive program.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced people who have received at least COVID-19 vaccination shot will be eligible to win up to $1.5 million in free money in the California COVID-19 vaccine lottery called Vax for the Win.

Here is a breakdown of who is eligible for the prize money and how they could receive their free money:

What are the prizes?

On Friday, June 4, the California Lottery will manage the random drawing of 15 people who will win $50,000 each. The next 15 people for the $50,000 prize will be chosen on Friday, June 11.

Then on Tuesday, June 15, when the state reopens, 10 people will be chosen to receive $1.5 million.

An eligible person can only win one of the prizes in the Vax for the Win program.

The state has also rewarded the first two million people to be vaccinated since Thursday, May 27, with $50 grocery cards. People are able to choose between a $50 virtual card, a $50 grocery gift card from Kroger stores, including Ralphs, Food 4 Less or Foods Co., or a $50 grocery gift card from Albertsons, including Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Andronico’s Community Markets.

Who is eligible?

Anyone who is 12 and older, a permanent resident of California and has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine recorded in the California database.

Immigration status is not a barrier for the drawings. And there is no money or purchase required to enter.

People are ineligible for the drawings if they are incarcerated, living outside of California or work in one of the participating agencies. Also, those not eligible for the contest include the spouses and dependent children of employees and employees of the California Department of Public Health, California State Lottery, California Health and Human Services Agency, Government Operations Agency, and Office of the Governor.

How winners will know if they won $50,000 or $1.5 million?

Although it only takes one dose to be eligible, the state will not pay winners of the $50,000 or $1.5 million until they have received all the vaccine doses needed to be considered fully vaccinated.

The California Department of Public Health has randomly assigned numbers to people in the state vaccination database. The California Lottery will then randomly select the winning numbers and then the California Department of Public Health will call the corresponding people who are eligible to let them know they won.

The state will call the phone number provided by the winner when they got their vaccination. The state will repeat efforts to contact the winner by phone call, text or email between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The state could stop trying to contact the winner after 96 hours of the initial phone call.

The names of winners will not be announced until the person is contacted and consents to win the prize and the prize winner wants to publicize that they won the money.

If they do not reach the winner or someone decides they don't want the money, the state will do a redraw to give away the money.

The payment of the prize money will come from the State Controller's Office and is contingent on all paperwork completed. Also, the money from these prizes could be subject to taxes or any other debts such as child support and restitution payments. 

How will people get the grocery cards?

If you get vaccinated on or after May 27, and you're one of the first two million to qualify, you’ll get a redemption code by text or email 7-10 days after your last vaccination. California officials said if you do not have a mobile phone or an email address, then 7-10 days after your final vaccination call 1-833-993-3873 to receive a physical card. And if you don't have a permanent address the state will help coordinate the delivery.

It can take up to five days to get the card of your choice when you redeem the code given.

Exceptions for winners under 18

If a winner is under the age of 18, the California Department of Public Health said their prize money will be put into a savings fund until the person reaches 18 years old, and then the winner will receive the prize money.

When a person under 18 goes to claim their grocery gift card, they may need to have a parent select the card.

How do I get vaccinated?

If you want to get vaccinated and entered the Vax for the Win contest, visit the MyTurn website or call the CA COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255 to find a vaccination site near you. Many allow you to walk in without an appointment.

People can get vaccinated at any site in California that reports to the statewide vaccination registry (CAIR), including in-home vaccination services, to be eligible for the free money.


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