Ohio University announced a new incentives program on Sept. 3 that is aimed at persuading students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

According to a university news release, the program — which follows a similar effort by the university in July — will run from Sept. 10 through Oct. 29. The new program also applies to faculty and staff, two groups that were left out of the last prize-drawing.

The program’s new prizes include:

  •  $100 for any OU employee who has become fully vaccinated after Aug. 31
  • A drawing of $100 in Bobcat Cash for 100 students per week who have become fully vaccinated after Aug. 31
  • A $500 contribution to the charity of choice of any sorority or fraternity that achieves a 90% vaccination rate among members
  • A fall-themed block party for any residence halls that achieve a 95% vaccination rate among residents

Students, faculty and staff who have received their full COVID-19 vaccine before Aug. 31 will not be eligible for the program, and individuals who have received approved vaccine exemptions will not be included in vaccination rate calculations, according to OU’s Bobcats Get Vaxxed webpage

On Aug. 31, OU announced it would require all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 15. That announcement was made shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the Pfizer vaccine full approval for individuals 16 years of age and older. 

Although all students, faculty and staff are already required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said there is still value in providing an incentive for individuals to do so. 

With the recent rise in coronavirus cases across campus, Ice said her team is struggling to keep up. To her, the main goal of the university's program isn’t to incentivize the vaccine, but to get people vaccinated sooner, so hospitals can treat people with problems not related to the coronavirus. 

Jack Pepper, administrator at the Athens City-County Health Department, echoed Ice’s thoughts on prioritizing individuals getting the vaccine in a timely manner.

“I do think that the sooner that we can get people vaccinated, the better, because we're definitely seeing, in particular, a strain on our local healthcare systems,” Pepper said. “We are certainly seeing data right now that supports that those who are vaccinated are hospitalized in a far less frequency than those who are not.”

To fund the new incentives program, Ice said the university is budgeting an investment of $190,000, a sharp increase from the $15,000 it used to fund the July prize drawing. 

Despite the price difference, Ice said the investment now will benefit the university in more ways than one. For example, students, faculty and staff who test weekly are costing the university about $100 per test, she said, and vaccines can help cut down on health insurance costs to OU from hospitalized employees. 

“A small amount of money towards incentives has huge savings for our budget, but more importantly, it prevents illness on campus, it prevents disruption on campus, it prevents long-term impact for students who have long COVID,” Ice said. 

In partnership with the ACCHD, the university will be hosting walk-in vaccination clinics at Heritage Hall and various other locations around campus in the following weeks. Those wishing to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated can do so here.

@ryanmaxin

rm554219@ohio.edu