Throughout the fall semester at Emporia State, students and faculty have been encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 through the #VaxToNormal campaign.

This incentive program was designed to motivate ESU students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated to create an environment where students can learn in classrooms and the university could come closer to “normal.”

One of the incentives to get vaccinated was prizes that were given out in the form of drawings, consisting of gift cards and grand prizes valuing up to a $3,500 scholarship.

“It was exciting,” said RobyLane Kelley, junior theater major and winner of a $500 scholarship. “Free money’s awesome, you hear that drawings happen, but you never actually expect you’re going to be the one to win, so it’s always like a chance thing. It was exciting.”

The prizes allow for students to get additional funding to help pay for things like tuition and books, along with promoting vaccinations.

“I think it encourages people to get vaccinated and to be proud of their vaccination,” Kelley said. “At this point in the pandemic, we need all the encouragement to get vaccinated and to encourage our friends and family to get vaccinated and I think that’s exactly what this drawing does.”

With this program coming to a close, all students who submitted their proof of vaccination have received a $250 scholarship and employees received $300 on their paychecks.

The scholarships were originally going to be awarded in the spring, however, students came forward and asked if they could receive them in the fall and the request was granted.

“If it’s an incentive program to do something now and we’re going to reward it, let’s reward it now,” said Lynn Hobson, dean of students.

The faculty and staff submitted vaccination rate as of Nov. 1 was roughly 74% and there were 2,000 students who submitted their proof of vaccination, according to Hobson.

With the fall semester coming to a close, all incentives to get vaccinated are also ending with no sign of plans to continue into next semester.

“All the data is telling us that vaccines are effective,” said Gwen Larson, director of media relations. “But I don’t know that there is going to be another push for incentives. What I have seen of the (COVID-19) numbers seems to be steady, I haven’t seen anything that has been huge spikes.”

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden signed orders that required most federal contractors and federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Universities like the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University began requiring all employees to be vaccinated. However, ESU did not follow their lead.

“That mandate came down from the federal government,” Larson said. “It was tied to anyone who had contracts with the federal government. Emporia State does not have federal contracts, so we did not fall under that mandate.”

A federal contract is a contract between a private business and a federal agency where the business provides the agency with supplies they need in return for payment, according to Kevin Johnson, general counsel.

“Just consider the federal government to be a giant person,” Johnson said. “It needs things, and so it has to buy those things because it doesn’t produce any- thing, and the agreement between it and the private business to get those things -- that’s a federal contract.”

While ESU does not have federal contracts, it did receive $18 million in federal grants for COVID-19 relief.

This is different from federal contracts in that grants come from whoever will supply them and the supplier doesn’t get a stake in the receiver’s business or endeavors.

“If anyone is concerned about the vaccine mandate applying at ESU,” Johnson said. “Please don’t be concerned because it’s not going to apply here under current conditions.”

Even though vaccines are not required on campus and incentive programs are over, COVID-19 has not been eliminated.

“If you have symptoms, get tested,” Hobson said. “If you have symptoms, just don’t mess around with it. I think people still have a little bit of a feeling of, ‘I’m going to be fine if I get it’ and forget maybe just how easily it’s transmitted to others, and not everybody will be fine. So just remember that it’s about your own health, but it’s also about the health of others.”

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