Universities Say Vaccine Incentives Work

DAYTON, Ohio — As a private school the University of Dayton could have legally required all students returning to campus next month to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but the university chose instead to offer incentives to encourage people to do it. It came in the form of a drawing that offered a variety of prizes.

“Having a high percentage of the campus vaccinated is the best way to prevent the COVID spread and protect people,” said Mary Buchwalder, M.D., Medical Director of the UD Student Health Center. Buchwalder said they came up with a program that would be fun for students and get the job done.

Students could enter the drawing by taking a picture of their vaccination card and uploading it to a secure web site. Then they would be eligible for prizes like the use of the university president’s parking spot. Buchwalder said the list of prizes also included entertainment events. “Tickets to “Hamilton”, really good basketball tickets, fun things,” Buchwalder said.

Miami University took it up a notch by offering a big money prize, free tuition on their Oxford campus for one semester, valued at more than $8,000. The school also offered tickets to sporting events. University spokesperson Carole Johnson told WHIO-TV that so far the incentives have worked. “We are pushing hard. While we cannot require or mandate vaccinations, we are highly encouraging our students to be vaccinated. We really want to be able to provide them as many activities as we can as we all in the country try to get back to normal,” Johnson said.

State lawmakers recently passed a bill that prohibits public school districts and public universities from mandating vaccinations as long as the vaccines have emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. Gov. Mike DeWine signed that bill this week, anticipating that the FDA would soon give the vaccines full use authorization, making the General Assembly’s prohibition moot.

Both UD and Miami are following a parallel path along with Ohio State University, which offered drawings for students, faculty and staff with prizes including free football tickets.

On the UD campus, participation in the vaccination program met its goal of having 70% of the student population fully vaccinated. “That’s where we wanted to be. We believe it provides a level of safety for the campus and the Dayton community too,” Buchwalder said.