ESU to Offer Vaccination Incentives to Students

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on July 8, 2021, No Comments

While masking protocols in Pennsylvania have been updated, East Stroudsburg University – as a workplace and a public institution of higher education – announced this week that some of the university’s COVID guidelines will remain in place for the time being. Masks will continue to be required in all public areas of buildings, building entry will remain restricted to university business only and social distancing continues to be recommended.

ESU Interim President Kenneth Long made this decision based on current COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates in Monroe County. “As of July 1, the fully-vaccinated rate in our county is 40.8%. To keep our community safe, we will continue to wear masks until there is a much lower risk of spreading the coronavirus on campus and in the surrounding community. As a public university and instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the University has no legal authority to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for students or employees, therefore we must take all other actions within our control to mitigate the resurgence of the virus on-campus; this includes the rollout of a completely voluntary COVID-19 vaccination incentive initiative for students,” Long said. “Although the university may not require students to be vaccinated, external organizations such as: school districts, medical facilities, private institutions, and sporting venues, may require proof of vaccination for our students to participate in off-campus activities such as: athletic competition, student-teaching, student-nursing, service learning, internships, and other opportunities.”

To encourage students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Mr. Long says ESU will offer a number of incentives to students who receive the vaccine and choose to share their vaccination status with the University. An additional perk for students who are vaccinated is that they will not be required to have regular COVID-19 testing, saving the university thousands of dollars each month. The protocols the university put in place during last Spring semester worked and helped keep the spread of the virus on-campus, but it was very time-consuming and costly. Long sees vaccination as the only viable option to prevent a resurgence of the COVID-19 in college communities, not just in East Stroudsburg, but throughout the Pocono Mountain Region.

While vaccination and disclosure of vaccination is optional, students who choose to share their vaccination status on ESU’s Medical History Form will be entered into an incentive drawing for a variety of prizes. The University’s annual medical history registration form was updated to include COVID-19 vaccination information. Students will receive their Medical History Form via email, and must have it completed and returned to ESU’s health center no later than August 1 to participate in the incentive initiative. Incentive item winners will be announced on Monday, August 16, 2021. Those selected must provide proof of vaccination to receive their prize.  Among the incentives are: tuition and housing waivers; campus meal plans; recreation center memberships; parking passes; textbook scholarships; and an array of gift cards.

According to the most recent CDC data released on May 22, only 38% of Americans age 18-29 had been at least partially vaccinated. For Long, that is a major concern. “We are eager to have a full campus this fall. But we want to do it safely and keep our students and community healthy. It is our hope that a little extra incentive will encourage more people to get the vaccine.”

Long has been encouraging the campus community to discuss the vaccine with their healthcare providers. During a recent virtual discussion Dr. Timothy Friel, Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono’s infectious disease specialist, talked about the vaccine and answered questions and concerns with ESU students, faculty and staff who attended his presentations.

“It’s important that we all do our part to remain safe, particularly as new variants of COVID-19 emerge,” Long added. “As an institution of higher education in this region, we must lead with facts about the vaccine and offer our students and our neighbors the best information possible so they may make good decisions about their own health and that of their family and friends.  My hope is that this incentive drawing goes well beyond awareness to action.”

Founded in 1893, East Stroudsburg University, today, is a comprehensive university in northeastern Pennsylvania offering 58 undergraduate programs, 21 master’s programs and two doctoral program. Over 6,000 students are enrolled for the high quality, affordable, and accessible education ESU provides. Nearly 30,000 ESU alumni live in Pennsylvania.