The University of Lethbridge says it’s worth a shot for students to get vaccinated before school starts this fall.
The university in southern Alberta announced Monday that students who receive a COVID-19 vaccination before Sept. 9 are eligible to win one of nine grand prizes of full tuition for this fall, which are worth about $3,600 each.
University president Mike Mahon says the school is not making vaccinations mandatory to attend, but notes the contest is a great idea to encourage people to get their shots.
“We know that when we talked to our students, generally speaking, there is enthusiasm about the uptake. But we do know that there are some folks that are a little more hesitant about vaccinations for various reasons,” Mahon said.
“So we wanted to provide a very positive, encouraging message.”
Kathleen Massey, the associate vice-president of students, said the university hopes at least 80 percent of the school’s population receives the vaccine. With in-person learning planned to resume this fall, Massey calls student vaccination, “critical.”
“We are very committed to doing everything we can to create a safe and healthy environment in the fall and vaccinations are a part of that,” Massey said.
“So we have been and will continue to encourage our community, students, staff and faculty to get vaccinated.”
Mahon said it’s been a difficult year for students who have had to take classes online. He said it’s had a serious impact on their mental health and appointments with health professionals have skyrocketed.
“We’re trying to encourage students to think about their future, to be optimistic about the future. So let’s create, in essence, some scholarships that are tied to emerging from COVID that are about the future for these students,” he added.
Mahon also hopes to have a vaccination clinic at the university when classes begin in the fall.
He said encouraging 10,000 students and staff to get vaccinated would be a significant part of Lethbridge’s population, which is about 100,000 people.
Over 400 students had already entered the contest before noon on Monday and students union president Holly Kletke said the contest provides reassurance to students.
“I know that there’s a lot of anxiety around the uncertainty of next semester, and I know that a lot of students are conflicted about a return to campus, but I think this is such a step in the right direction,” Kletke said.
Alberta also opened up vaccinations Monday to everyone 12 and older, which he said made it an ideal time to announce the plan.
Alberta currently has the highest COVID-19 rate in Canada and enough vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a first dose.
More than half of the students enrolled at the university are from Alberta, but Mahon said the contest is also open to international students as long as they’re living in Canada.
The tuition prizes also include student administrative, recreation services and fine arts access fees. Seven of the awards are to go to undergraduate students at the Lethbridge campus, one to a student at its campus in Calgary and one to a graduate student.
There will also be $500 gift certificates to the school’s bookstore.
-With files from Global News’ Erik Bay