By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – While state officials have held off offering any kind of statewide COVID-19 vaccine incentives, more than a dozen Alabama community colleges are offering perks for students and staff who get the shot.
Colleges like Gadsden State Community College are offering students who are fully vaccinated to be eligible for a $500 book assistance program and full-time employees can receive a $50 voucher to the campus cafeteria or campus bookstores.
“With the number of COVID cases rising in our state, it is important that we do everything we can to encourage our students and employees to protect themselves and others by getting the COVID-19 vaccination,” President Kathy Murphy said in a written statement announcing the incentives. “While it is not required of our students or employees, it is highly recommended.”
Alabama still ranks near the bottom in the nation for the percent of people fully vaccinated with about 38%, according to data from the Mayo Clinic.
The lack of vaccination has also led to a spike in new cases and a record amount of COVID-19 patients taking up hospitals’ intensive care units.
The total number of the virus patients in state hospitals was 2,873 on Tuesday, still below the pandemic high-water mark of 3,087 set in January.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris has said that he supports the local initiatives but that data from other states have shown minimal success.
“I would say we’re certainly not opposed to incentives at all,” he said at a recent news conference. “However, I don’t know of an incentive program that has been wildly successful anywhere.”
Earlier this summer, Gov. Kay Ivey expressed her dislike for incentive programs in a Washington Post opinion piece, calling them bribes. She said she believes in a more “common sense” approach to getting people vaccinated.
“There are those who believe that government should mandate the vaccine or that we should bribe people to take it. That’s not going to happen in my state, no matter how many times the media ask me,” Ivey wrote.
Earlier this year, lawmakers approved and Ivey signed legislation banning businesses and schools from requiring customers or students to show proof of vaccination. While schools can’t mandate the shots, they are allowed to offer a variety of perks.
Here is what colleges are doing for incentives across the state:
Calhoun Community College: Offering $150 to each fully vaccinated student enrolled in fall 2021 semester and all Calhoun employees.
Central Alabama Community College: Fully vaccinated students will be entered into a drawing for gift cards and a pizza lunch with the college president.
Chattahoochee Valley Community College: Students will be offered $50 upon providing proof of vaccination. Faculty and staff who are vaccinated can get a summer treat from a local food truck.
Coastal Alabama Community College: Students and employees fully vaccinated can get a $100 Amazon gift card and a free “Vaxxed & Back at Coastal” T-shirt.
Drake State Community College: Students, employees and members of the community who come to their vaccination clinics will automatically be entered in a drawing to win prizes like gift cards to local restaurants or school paraphernalia.
Enterprise State/Alabama Aviation College: All students who show proof of full vaccination by Oct. 1 will receive $100 and be entered in a drawing for one student to receive an additional $1,000.
Jefferson State Community College: Students who verify they are fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 can receive $100.
Lawson State Community College: Students who show proof of vaccination will get a $25 bookstore voucher and entry into a drawing for one of 50 $200 gift cards.
Reid State Technical College: Students who are fully vaccinated will have until the end of the semester to show proof of vaccination to be eligible for a $100 incentive. All students who complete the semester and are fully vaccinated will be entered into a $1,000 drawing.
Snead State Community College: Students who attend their upcoming vaccination clinic will receive a T-shirt, gift certificate, athletic event passes or a certificate redeemable for a three-credit-hour class while supplies last.
Southern Union State Community College: Students who show proof of vaccination will be entered into a drawing for a $500 scholarship for the spring semester.
Wallace Community College – Dothan: Students who are fully vaccinated and are enrolled for fall 2021 can get $100 gift cards. Those eligible students can also enter a raffle to win one of five $250 gift cards.
Wallace State Community College – Hanceville: Students who show proof of full vaccination by Sept. 15 will receive $150 and will also be entered to win one of five additional $1,000 awards.
The Alabama Community College System has 24 colleges and more than 130 locations across Alabama. In fall 2020, they had a combined nearly 71,000 students.