UNT COVID testing

Nurse Nicole Hilton, right, demonstrates a check-in for a COVID-19 test with Leigh Anne Gullett, a spokesperson for UNT, at the Student Health and Wellness Center in September 2020.

The University of North Texas is taking the next step to get more people on campus vaccinated as it prepares to return to in-person classes and activities.

Earlier this month, the university announced it would take part in the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge, an initiative launched by the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of the vaccine challenge is to get colleges and universities across the country to help end the spread of COVID-19 by committing to helping their campus get vaccinated.

“We know that as more members of our campus community are vaccinated, we will be safer,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said in an official notice. “I encourage everyone to get vaccinated, and to help motivate you, we are doing something fun!”

On par with the challenge, the university launched the Vaccine Incentive Program that will give vaccinated students, staff and faculty opportunities to win prizes each week. Those eligible can upload a photo of their vaccination records to receive one UNT Dining Services meal voucher and be entered to win one of more than 30 prizes drawn each week.

The program initially began July 6 for faculty and staff with opportunities to win weekly prizes such as club-level tickets to football games at Apogee Stadium, a one-year Highland Street garage unreserved parking permit, one-year Pohl Recreation Center memberships and more. The university added students into the mix on July 18 with eligibility to win student financial awards from $250 to $1,000, Eagle parking permits and Barnes & Noble Bookstore book stipends.

Melissa McGuire, assistant vice president for student affairs, said the university is utilizing the institutional portion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief funds to help fund the Vaccine Incentive Program.

“The real hope is to promote vaccinations and getting out campus vaccinated so we could ensure we stop the spread of COVID on our campus and we remain fully open,” McGuire said. “It really just was an effort to try to promote faculty, staff and students getting vaccinated and participating in the program if they wanted to do so.”

As of June 27, the university received over 2,000 vaccination records from faculty, staff and students and about 1,200 students submitted their records just that day. The first group of student awards went to 345 students late last month, and the university will continue to give awards every Monday.

“By the time that we end, we will distribute close to 3,000 prizes to students, faculty and staff,” McGuire said.

The on-campus vaccination clinic reopened after a temporary closure and is back to free walk-in appointments and is currently giving out the Moderna vaccine.

Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination appointments for students and employees have been limited to a first-come, first-serve basis for the first 20 people each day. The limit was put in place for the treatment area to monitor patients after their vaccination.

As of June 28, more than 3,000 students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated at the UNT Student Health and Wellness Center, with more than 5,000 injections administered.

“As much as students and faculty want to participate in this program, we encourage them to do so,” McGuire said. “I think we’ll see numbers jump as we get closer to the start of school.”


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