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Florida universities seek creative incentives for student vaccination

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCJB) - Graduation ceremonies were held Friday at Florida’s colleges and universities as the summer semester came to a close, but the schools are already preparing for a wave of new arrivals this fall.

Ensuring those students are vaccinated is their top priority.

Universities are prohibited from mandating students get vaccinated in Florida, so they’re having to come up with creative ways to encourage students to get the shot.

“Our numbers are such that we really, really need to push it,” said FAMU Student Health Director Tanya Tatum.

At FAMU, $1 million in federal relief funds have been put towards a vaccine raffle.

Students who get the jab can enter for a chance to win gift cards and even iPads.

“We actually had over 200 entries, so we’re pretty excited and we’ve actually seen a slight increase in the numbers of individuals at the vaccination site,” said Tatum.

Reactions to the vaccine raffle at FAMU were mixed.

RELATED STORY: Governor DeSantis bans mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions

Even though all the students we spoke with were already vaccinated, they told us their unvaccinated peers are going to be hard to convince.

“When you think about the health aspect of it, to them it might be bigger than just a cash prize,” said incoming FAMU freshman Danielle Samuel.

FAMU student Deandre Frances told us parental influence may be playing a role.

“Parents don’t want their kids to get vaccinated cause they don’t know how it’ll affect them,” said Frances.

At FSU the strategy is centered around consistent public messaging.

“I have a vaccination, Jean and I both did. I believe it’s a safe thing to do,” said FSU President John Thrasher.

Thrasher joined the state’s eleven other public university presidents and signed onto a letter this week strongly urging students to get vaccinated.

“You know we have limited things we can do. We can recommend masks, we can recommend vaccinations, we can recommend social distancing, all of those things, but it comes back to individual responsibility,” said Thrasher.

Last year in the capital city, the return of students in August brought one of the highest local case spikes of the pandemic.

Health officials hope they can avoid a repeat if their vaccination efforts are successful.

The FAMU campus vaccination site has so far administered more than 10,000 shots.

FSU’s campus vaccination clinic has administered over 20,000 shots.

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