Alabama health officials have recruited colleges to host COVID-19 vaccination campaigns ahead of football games this fall, with fans eligible for $75 voucher incentives on game days.
Thirteen colleges in the state will participate in the program, including the University of Alabama and Auburn University, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and Bruno Event Team CEO Gene Hallman said Thursday at a news conference announcing the initiative.
Each school will host an on-site vaccination clinic at one home game this season, and the program will also open a platform for people to upload proof of vaccination up to 14 days before the game. Participants will receive a $75 voucher redeemable at the college book store as a "thank you," Hallman said, for helping keep Alabama communities safe.
SEASON PREDICTIONS: Our experts pick Heisman winner, national champ
DIFFICULT TIMES: College football begins with dark cloud over sport's future
The state has previously trailed all others in vaccination rates, as new vaccine rates slowed to a trickle this summer compared to initial rates in the spring. Vaccine uptake has increased in recent weeks on the heels of a serious, deadly resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming state hospitals.
State officials previously expressed hesitation about widespread incentive campaigns, but Harris said this program is tailor made for Alabama and its strong football culture.
"Appealing to people in a campus setting allows us to reach a population we're looking for, in the context of something that is really important to college students and adults in our state, which is football," Harris said.
To participate, people can either get their first COVID-19 dose within a 14-day period before their chosen game day and provide proof on the website www.kickcovid19.com, which is a HIPAA-compliant system. Or, people can get vaccinated on game day at sites that will open three hours prior to kick-off.
Given that two major vaccine types, Pfizer and Moderna, require a two-dose regimen, Hallman said some colleges have arranged for a follow-up clinic to be on campus for the second dose.
"Absent that, we're going to be providing very precise information where people can go to get that second dose," Hallman said. "To the extent we can schedule those appointments at the site, we're going to do that."
Harris said the program hopes to "normalize" vaccinations as health officials try to get people to "change their behavior a little bit," given the ongoing COVID-19 wave tearing through state hospitals.
Officials have also recruited a number of players at each school to promote the program, Hallman said.
The initiative will run on the following dates at each school:
Sept. 16: University of West Alabama
Sept. 18: Jackson State University
Sept. 18: University of South Alabama
Sept. 25: University of Alabama
Sept. 25: Auburn University
Sept. 25: Alabama State University
Sept. 25: Samford University
Sept. 25: Miles College
Oct. 2: Tuskegee University
Oct. 2: University of North Alabama
Oct. 2: University of Alabama at Birmingham
Oct. 9: Alabama A&M University
Oct. 9: Troy University
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama, Auburn to host COVID-19 vaccine clinics at football games