Campus News Health & Wellness

UGA boosts incentives for getting COVID-19 vaccines

A nurse gives a vaccine to a UGA student.
Undergraduate Alicia Mata gets a vaccine from Department of Public Health nurse Tricia Ellis at a Popup Vaccine Clinic at the Tate Student Center. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

100 prizes of $1,000 to be awarded

Vaccine incentives offered to students, faculty and staff at the University of Georgia are working, and next week, the university will up the ante once again.

UGA is already offering a $20 gift card and specially designed T-shirt to all who get vaccinated through the University Health Center and recently added an incentive to sign up for a chance to win one of 10 $100 gift cards being awarded on four successive Fridays. To date, 20 individuals have won—most of them students.

“It’s a great initiative to motivate others who are not taking the vaccine to take the vaccine,” said Oranti Ahmed Omi, a graduate student majoring in neuroscience. “COVID is going to be here for a long time, so I think better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to get vaccinated and have some protection.”

Beginning next week, UGA will once again bolster vaccine incentives. Starting Wednesday, Sept. 1, any current student, faculty or staff member who has been fully vaccinated (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one of Johnson & Johnson)—whether at the University Health Center or elsewhere—can submit their names to be in the running to win a cash prize of $1,000. A total of 100 prizes will be awarded.

“At the University of Georgia, we are serious about urging our students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated, as vaccinations provide our community’s best protection against COVID-19,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “The FDA formally approved the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, and I hope those who may have been hesitant about getting the vaccine will now feel confident in doing so. I am very pleased that this newest incentive program will be retroactive, allowing any current member of our faculty, staff or student body who has been fully vaccinated in the past to participate. I hope it will be a great motivator to those who have not yet been vaccinated.”

Senior administrators are the only group not eligible, and employees’ awards must be taxed appropriately through payroll. Student awards will be processed through Student Financial Aid and will not interfere with other assistance being received.

The names of the first 50 lucky winners will be drawn on Sept. 15, with another 25 to follow on Sept. 30 and again on Oct. 15. Individuals vaccinated in the coming weeks will be able to add their names to the pool as soon as they receive their second dose (or single dose of J&J). Winners will be required to validate the dates and locations of their vaccines. Additional details will be forthcoming.

Getting vaccinated is convenient and free to UGA students, faculty and staff at the University Health Center. Appointments at the UHC may be booked online. Walk-ups are available at special vaccine clinics being offered at the Tate Student Center from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Aug. 24-26, 30-31, and Sept. 2. The clinics, a partnership of the UHC and local office of the Georgia Department of Health, are being promoted by UGA’s Student Vaccine Ambassadors.

“These incentives, combined with the convenience of our on-campus vaccine clinics at the Tate Student Center, are really motivating people to get the vaccine,” said J. Derrick Lemons, an associate professor of religion who helped start the Student Vaccine Ambassador program at UGA. “People are coming through the clinics saying, ‘I can get the vaccine right here, right now and I get a T-shirt and chance to win a gift card at the same time? Let’s do it!’

“All of these things are pivotal in our mission to get our community vaccinated, and these efforts are really making a dent in getting shots in arms.”

To date, the University of Georgia has administered 25,000 vaccines through the UHC. Many more individuals have been vaccinated through community providers. The UHC also plans to begin administering federally recommended third doses to immunocompromised individuals and booster shots to others in order to combat waning immunity and the prevalence of the delta variant.

“We will put a process in place that follows ACIP and CDC guidelines for administration of third shots and boosters of the vaccine to our campus community,” said Jen Swails, interim executive director of the University Health Center. “Given the schedule by which we administered vaccine, this means that the bulk of our recipients needing a booster shot would be eligible later this fall; however, some individuals may be eligible sooner.”