12:58 PM

Final winners announced in COVID-19 vaccination prize drawing

University awards $50,000 in prizes to promote vaccinations

One of Zach Coates’s favorite childhood memories is attending Ohio State football games in Ohio Stadium with his father. This year, Coates, a clinical assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State, will be back in the stadium again, this time as a grand prize winner of the university’s Vaccination Prize Drawing.

“I’ve always loved Ohio State football growing up,” Coates said. “I had the opportunity to start going to the games, way back when I was a kid, with my father who was an alum. But since undergrad, I haven’t had a whole lot of chances to actually go to the games. I just love the atmosphere, the energy that comes with the home games. It’s really unbeatable.”

Coates is one of four grand prize winners in the final week of a university-wide incentive program to encourage vaccination against COVID-19. Each week in August, four grand prize winners won an ‘A’ parking pass on the Columbus campus or pair of season tickets to Ohio State football home games. In addition to the grand prizes each week, two winners won $1,000 gift cards, four won $500 gift cards, eight won $250 gift cards and 20 won $100 gift cards. In all, more than 150 students, faculty and staff members who had been vaccinated won more than $50,000 in prizes.

As a health care professional, Coates was vaccinated in February.

“The vaccine is our best chance at returning to any sense of normal,” he said. “And honestly, I did it not only to protect myself from COVID, but also to protect my friends and family and especially my patients.”

A return to normal also mattered to another of this week’s grand prize winners, fourth-year student Jesse Nathanson. Nathanson, a security and intelligence major, said he is looking forward to taking some of his friends to football games this fall.

“It is important for the university to incentivize vaccinations, but I believe it is more of a reward for those who have done their part as opposed to motivation for those to do it now,” he said in an email. “Hopefully seeing these giveaways will influence those who have not already been vaccinated to follow the new university guidelines and keep this school year as normal as possible.”

Last month, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Ohio State announced it would require every student, faculty and staff member to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Members of the Ohio State community must receive at least a first dose by Oct. 15. People receiving a two-dose sequence must receive their second dose by Nov. 15.

The university also requires people to report their vaccination status; 77% of the Ohio State community had received at least one dose as of Sept. 1. Ohio State’s community vaccination rate is higher than both the state and national vaccination rates.

Becca Persons, a graduate student pursing master’s degrees in social work and public administration and leadership, was another grand prize winner this week; she chose the parking pass. She hopes the university’s incentive program helped encourage students who may feel young and invincible to reconsider and get vaccinated.

Jason Shaw, security educator in the Wexner Medical Center security division, also won a grand prize this week, and said he was selecting the season tickets.

Ohio State funded the vaccination incentive program through the university’s strategic cash reserves. No tuition, donor or tax dollars were used.

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