Wednesday November 29, 2023

Staging an Effective Rollout

  • Schools have a difficult task ahead of them: actually getting shots in arms.
  • Experts shared their ideas about how to make sure students get vaccinated.
Photo: Evan Manivong/Design: Alex Brooks
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Schools have a difficult task ahead of them: actually getting shots in arms. 

College students can be “hard to reach” with health information, University of North Texas Health Science Center epidemiology professor Diana Cervantes told FOS. “They don’t see their own mortality.”

“And they get caught up in their own lives.”


Most college-aged people support vaccines, Cervantes said. “It’s usually the case that they just get busy with their own things. They’ve got school starting, they get stressed out with classes.”

Muhlenberg public health professor Kathleen Bachynski told FOS that some students were hesitant because they worried their second dose — and potential symptoms — might interrupt final exams.

Athletes might be traveling for games when they’re eligible for their second doses, making scheduling particularly difficult. 

And when the year ends, students might go home before they can get a second dose, Cervantes noted.

Messaging and Incentives

The same strategies used to mobilize athletes to vote will help them get vaccinated. It comes down to communication and accessibility.

Cervantes said correct messaging is key. It’s a combination of schools providing information in the highest-visibility platforms, like social media, and students gathering it from people they trust, like coaches.

Campaigns that focus on “protecting” the university population might also resonate with athletes in particular, who are worried about getting teammates sick, Bachynski said.

Then there’s athletes’ own platforms. Illinois gymnast Evan Manivong, for example, waved around his vaccine card after sticking a landing. When the viral video surfaced on Twitter, Manivong tweeted: “It’s my vaccination card…go get vaccinated everyone!”

Experts noted that schools dangling a promise of normalcy, like eliminating daily testing, could incentivize students to get vaccinated.

And once they’re ready to make appointments, experts agree that convenient sites can help. But that’s easier for the schools who receive doses from state or local allocations.

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