A man who was among a lucky group of 15 Californians chosen to win $50,000 in the state’s first COVID-19 vaccine incentive lottery last week spoke out for the first time on Wednesday evening, two days ahead of the next drawing for the five-figure prize money.
“I’m still in disbelief a little bit,” said the man, who identified himself only as Tony.
In a brief video released by the governor’s office, Tony recalled receiving a call last Friday following the first “Vax for the Win” draw and thinking it couldn’t be real.
“At first I thought it was a joke and I ignored it,” he said in the video. But then, “Somebody posted something about the contest, so I started doing some research. All of a sudden, I found out that I won.”
Tony expressed gratitude for the sudden infusion of cash, which comes after a tough year-and-a-half in which he lived primarily off his savings.
“It’s nice to have this extra money coming in,” he said.
The state hasn’t released the names of any of the other winners, as those picked are first identified only by anonymous numbers and have the option to come forward publicly. Of the 15, three are Los Angeles County residents, and a fourth is from Orange County.
Fifteen more winners will be chosen at random this Friday, to receive $50,000 as part of the state’s push to increase coronavirus vaccinations ahead of June 15. That’s the target date California officials have set to lift most COVID-19 restrictions in the state, including the mask mandate.
Then, on June 15, 10 people will win the grand prize of $1.5 million each.
All California resident 12 and older who got at least one dose are automatically entered into the contest.
Winners will be notified by the California Department of Public Health through an official caller or text ID, a CDPH email address or in person by agency staff.
Earlier this week, the California health department issued a warning to be aware of scammers as people reported getting emails, text and social media messages from imposters posing as state officials.
The department stressed that winners won’t be asked for their bank account information, nor will they have have to pay fees to verify their eligibility to claim the money.
Beyond the drawing for cash prizes, the state is also giving $50 in prepaid or grocery cards to the first 2 million Californians who received the shot beginning on May 27.
In total, the state is doling out $116.5 million in prizes, making it the largest state vaccine incentive program in the country.