OAKLAND (KPIX) — Even with the inducement of winning cash prizes in California, there is stubborn contingent of Bay Area residents still resisting getting the COVID vaccination.
Suspicious of government information, they argue they’re critical thinkers.READ MORE: Man Accused Of Stealing Lemur From SF Zoo Charged With Violating Endangered Species Act
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday unveiled a $116.5 million incentive program that would offer cash prizes to people getting a COVID vaccine, including a $15 million cash prize that would be split between 10 people.
Newsom announced the program as part of California’s push to get millions more inoculated before the most populous U.S. state fully reopens next month, calling it “the most significant incentive program in the United States of America.”
“We are making available the largest prizes of any state in America for those who seek to get vaccinated,” said Newsom.
The state estimates about 12 million Californians 12 and older have not been vaccinated. About 63% of the 34 million eligible have gotten shots, though the pace has slowed markedly in recent weeks as infection rates have plummeted to record lows.
However, there’s a segment of the population that argues no amount of money can convince them to get the shot.
Oakland resident Ernest Ward turned 88 years old on Friday. He was among the first group to qualify to get the vaccine back in January. But so far, he has refused to get it. He doesn’t believe the vaccines are safe.
“I didn’t know what or who to believe in a sense. So I’m just going to leave it as is for now,” said Ward. “It’s too many ‘I don’t know’s,’ you understand what I mean? So I rather wait a bit little longer before I make that move.”READ MORE: UPDATE: Fire Destroys 2 Pleasant Hill Homes; Resident Still Missing, Firefighter Suffers Burns
His daughter also declined to get inoculated despite the new cash incentives.
“It sounds tempting, but no. No amount of money, I’m sorry,” said Litrisha Ward. “I don’t care how ever much amount of money. They can offer me a house, a car. No.”
“There’s no amount of money that can change my mind about putting something in my system that hasn’t been tested,” said Oakland resident Denisa Dummett.
Many COVID vaccine skeptics said they believe the lottery money was wasteful and would only intensify the shaming and add pressure for people who don’t want it.
“I have lost a few friends. I’ve been told they don’t want to talk to me anymore,” said a woman who refused to get the vaccine and declined to provide her name. She said friends won’t invite her over unless she’s vaccinated.
“Why the government would have to coerce people, that would be my question. And this is taxpayers’ money,” said another woman who also declined to provide her name, fearing she’ll lose customers at her business since she also refused to get the shot.
Even though health experts have repeatedly said the vaccines are safe and effective, for some people, nothing will change their mind.MORE NEWS: Drought: Transbay Pipeline, Desalination Plant Could Boost Marin's Dwindling Water Supply
“I’m going to let all the guinea pigs go in front of me first,” said Dummett.