NewsVaccine incentive program comes amidst increasing concerns of Delta...

Vaccine incentive program comes amidst increasing concerns of Delta variant

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Photo Courtesy of BBC

A new incentive program from the University of Southern Mississippi could lead fully vaccinated students to win big prizes. Said program, however, also reflects the state’s current rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths.

The program, which officially started July 30, was announced by the Office of Student Affairs the day before. Students can enter the contest, lasting until Oct. 15, by submitting their vaccination information to www.usm.edu/gotmycovidvax. Five names will be pulled each week during the contest’s duration, with each name winning a specific prize from the university. 

Said prizes are nothing to sneeze at, either. They include a $300 Barnes & Noble Bookstore Book Voucher, a $414 parking decal, $1,000 worth of Dining Dollars, $2,000 worth of Housing and Residence Life Room Credit and Fall 2021 semester tuition, currently set at $4,602. As the contest lasts for 12 weeks total, it will cost the university a total of $58,938 to run and execute.

Dee Dee Anderson, Southern Miss’s Vice President of Student Affairs, was the one to write the email initially announcing the contest. She strongly encouraged all students currently unvaccinated to get an appointment, especially as Southern Miss still aims to have in-person classes throughout the Fall 2021 semester.

“We are so excited to have you back on campus this fall in classes, at athletic events and at student activities,” wrote Anderson. “The best way for you to stay healthy, stay connected and stay in class this fall is by getting your COVID-19 vaccine.”

The incentive program comes as the Delta variant of COVID-19 swamps the state’s hospitals and ICU facilities. The Delta variant, though it first spread throughout Europe and Asia in 2020, has become an increasing problem in the United States this past year. It is both a highly transmissible and deadly variant of the disease, which helped the global COVID-19 death toll surpass four million in July.

The Delta variant is especially a problem for a state like Mississippi, with the Mayo Clinic only reporting 39.4% of Mississippians as fully vaccinated. As of August 19, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) has reported 5,048 new cases of COVID-19, with 54 new deaths. The MSDH also reports that 172 long term care facilities, containing those most at risk for COVID-related deaths, are currently in the middle of outbreaks. 

“We’re seeing a phenomenal increase in daily reported cases of COVID, and this is entirely attributable to the delta variant[.]” Dr. Thomas Dobbs, a Mississippi State Health Officer, announced in a web interview. “[It] is sweeping over Mississippi like a tsunami.”

Despite the risks, Southern Miss is committed to staying open for the upcoming school year, and is adapting accordingly. The university’s administration has reinstated its indoor mask mandate and has reportedly relaxed its former hardline stance of “fully in-person” classes for the Fall 2021 semester. A vast majority of the Administrators for the university, including President Rodney Bennett, have heavily encouraged students to get vaccinated.

However, it has still not mandated any students, faculty or staff members to be vaccinated to go onto campus. 
Anyone still looking to get vaccinated can look for and schedule an appointment through www.vaccines.gov, or can call Moffitt Health Center at 601-266-5390.

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