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50 vaccinated individuals win UGA’s $1,000 prize through incentive program

Winners from the first vaccine drawing pose with Hairy Dawg. (L to R) Emily Kilgore, Andrea Serrano, Katie Chapman, Frema Owusu-ansah, Pradeep Prabhakar. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

UGA Today

Fifty fully vaccinated members of the University of Georgia community won $1,000 in the first of three drawings to promote COVID-19 vaccinations on campus.

The winners, made up of UGA students, staff and faculty, were drawn from more than 21,000 entries on Sept. 15 and represent the strong commitment being taken by the UGA community to keep one another safe through vaccinations.

“It feels unreal, honestly,” said Andrea Serrano, a linguistics major who learned that she was one of the winners. “I still can’t believe I was one out of the 50 people who won $1,000. I feel like I won the lottery.”

That’s a similar sentiment to how Jessie E. Bryan, a UGA Crisp County Extension administrative assistant, was feeling. “I was shocked that I won, and I am very thankful,” she said.

Bryan and her husband both got COVID last year. She said her husband got very sick but fortunately recovered. Bryan’s case was mild, but they both listened to their doctor when he recommended getting vaccinated.

For Serrano, the decision to get vaccinated was all about protecting the people she cares about.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “we all want life to get as close as possible to what was once considered normal pre-COVID, and the quickest way to do that is to become one more vaccinated person yourself.”

The prizes are one way the university is encouraging vaccinations for COVID-19. The university also continues to incentivize new vaccinations with limited edition T-shirts and $20 retail gift cards.

Bryan said her prize will go toward bills. Serrano is saving hers, perhaps for graduate school.

Since classes resumed, the University Health Center has administered nearly 2,000 vaccines onsite or in partnership with the local Department of Health in pop-up clinics. To date, the University Health Center has given more than 25,000 vaccine doses to the UGA community.

“The COVID-19 vaccine continues to be the best way our community can protect one another, and we’ve been pleased to see the response to the university’s incentives among our students, faculty and staff,” said Jen Swails, interim executive director of the UHC. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and we encourage everyone who hasn’t yet to make an appointment to be vaccinated.”

While previous incentives have been funded through private funds, this newest program is being supported by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, which the federal government allows to be used to support vaccine incentive programs.

The drawing was conducted by UGA’s Office of Institutional Research with results verified by Internal Audit.

Registration for fully vaccinated individuals remains open for additional drawings on Sept. 30, when another 25 can win the cash prize, and again on Oct. 15. Individuals who have already entered the drawing do not need to register again. Senior administrators are the only group not eligible, and employees’ awards will be taxed appropriately through payroll. Student awards will be processed through Student Financial Aid and will not interfere with other assistance being received.

Vaccinations are free to UGA students, faculty and staff at the University Health Center. Appointments can be booked online.

The University of Georgia is a part of a university system of 26 members institutions and must follow the directives of the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents. The USG does not allow its institutions to enact mask or vaccine mandates, but vaccinations and wearing masks indoors are strongly encouraged.

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