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Alabama universities try out vaccine incentives to boost shots

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

Four-year universities in Alabama are using incentive programs to get their campus populations vaccinated against COVID-19 as students return to campuses.

The state’s two largest universities each have an incentive program, with the University of Alabama recently increasing the amount and extending the deadline for when students can show proof of their first shot.

University of Alabama students now have until Sept. 10 to show they have gotten their first shot in order to receive $40 in their Bama Cash account.

According to UA’s COVID-19 dashboard, at least 58% of UA’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. At least 72.5% of their employee population has also received one shot.

Statewide, 33.9% of Alabamians aged 18-29 have gotten at least one shot, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.Older populations have higher vaccination rates.

Auburn University is offering a number of incentives through a lottery ranging from upgraded parking passes, unlimited meal plans and $1,000 scholarships.

Preston Sparks, Auburn’s director of university communications services, told Alabama Daily News that so far 6,000 students have entered to win prizes through their incentive program. Auburn’s enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year was 30,737.

Students are not required to show proof of vaccination to go to universities in Alabama, thanks to a law passed earlier this year in the Alabama Legislature. But schools can still offer perks to encourage vaccinations.

The University of Alabama at Huntsville students had until Wednesday to upload proof of vaccination in order to get $20 in dining certificates and a chance at a parking pass. According to UA system data, at least 41% of the Huntsville campus’ students have gotten one shot.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is giving $20 in Blazer Bucks to any students who complete their vaccine sequence by Sept. 30. According to UA system data, their campus has at least 60% of its students who have gotten at least one shot.

Jacksonville State University is offering vaccinated students and staff $100.

The University of South Alabama is offering a $25 incentive to students, as well as a chance for parking passes.

Community colleges around the state are also participating in incentive programs.

On Wednesday, 2,828 Alabamians were hospitalized for COVID-19, inching the state closer to the record of 3,087 in January. The state’s intensive care units are also well over capacity due to the virus, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

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