California officials who have spent months urging residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus now hope US$116.5 million in prizes will sweeten the deal.

Under the state’s new “Vax for the Win” campaign, launched Thursday, residents 12 years or older who are at least partially vaccinated will be eligible for cash prizes awarded in a series of three drawings in June. California joins a growing number of areas rolling out incentives -- from money to Girl Scout cookies -- to coax reluctant residents into getting shots.

California’s first two drawings, on June 4 and June 11, will select a total of 30 winners to receive US$50,000 apiece, if they complete their inoculations. In the final drawing, on June 15, 10 residents will win US$1.5 million each.

In addition, the next two million residents to start and complete the vaccination process will receive a US$50 pre-paid grocery card, good for use at most of California’s major grocery chains.

The campaign comes as the most-populous state prepares to fully reopen its economy on June 15, dropping most of its restrictions on social gatherings and business operations. Almost 63 per cent of Californians aged 12 and older have received a vaccine dose, and case rates are now the lowest in the nation, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Still an estimated 12 million Californians who are eligible still haven’t received a single shot. And in the last week, the number of residents receiving their first dose of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has plunged, Newsom said. About 163,000 Californians were vaccinated Wednesday, he said, and two-thirds of them were receiving their second shot.

“We’ve got to get those first-dose numbers up,” Newsom said at a press conference in Los Angeles. “Each and every member of the public can do that, and now they have more of an incentive.”

The campaign takes a page from Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” sweepstakes, which gives people who have gotten at least one dose the chance to win US$1 million. Public health officials in Indiana and New York state have handed out Girl Scout cookies at vaccination sites. And Maine has an incentive package that includes hunting and fishing licenses, as well as US$20 gift cards from L.L. Bean.

Los Angeles County, home of about 10 million people, on Friday will start a separate prize program: the opportunity for season tickets to the Los Angeles Kings hockey team or Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club.

Newsom, a Democrat facing a likely recall election this year, said the money for California’s program will be well-spent if it convinces reluctant residents to get vaccinated.

“The cost of people not getting vaccinated is exponentially, incalculably higher,” he said. “We’ve got to finish the job.”