Pitt provides COVID-19 vaccine incentives, no plans for vaccine requirement

By Natalie Frank, News Editor

Pitt students, faculty and staff who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are now eligible to receive prizes, including up to $2,500 in cash.

Kenyon Bonner, the vice provost and dean of students, said in an announcement on Wednesday that all students have to do is fill out a disclosure survey stating they received their vaccine to be entered into the drawing for prizes. The rewards include gift certificates to restaurants and the University Store on Fifth, research funding support, Pitt Eats dollars for on-campus dining and tickets to sporting events.

While the University begins incentivizing vaccinations through prize drawings, the announcement said there are no plans to require students, faculty and staff to receive a  COVID-19 vaccination to be on campus.

While Pitt has no plans to require vaccinations, Pitt’s Senate Council at its May 26 meeting voted 79% in favor of mandating a COVID-19 vaccine for students, faculty and staff to be on campus. Pitt’s Student Government Board said in a statement on Monday that SGB stands in “solidarity” with the Senate Council vote.

“The University of Pittsburgh Student Government Board stands firmly in solidarity with the University Senate Council in its decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for the student body during the upcoming Fall Semester, and calls on University leadership to implement the measures recommended in the Senate-proposed resolution,” the statement said. 

SGB argued that while it acknowledges the prize drawing as a “positive reinforcement method” taken by the University, a vaccination mandate is necessary to ensure students’ concerns are taken seriously and the upcoming fall semester can operate smoothly.

“However, without a vaccine mandate, we risk another semester of uncertainty, restrictions on campus life, and remote learning,” the statement said. “Worse yet, students, faculty, and staff could gain a false sense of security that they can learn and teach in a safe environment.”

The statement said the University should follow in the footsteps of other public universities who have already required a COVID-19 vaccine for the fall, including University of Delaware, University of Michigan, Indiana University, University of Maryland, Rutgers University, as well as local private universities such as Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne.

Drawings will take place weekly starting next Wednesday, June 23, and continue until Aug. 6. Individuals who submit their vaccination status by midnight on the day of the drawing are eligible for that week’s drawing, according to the vaccination incentive website.

Students who submitted proof of vaccination through the Student Health Service are not automatically entered into the drawings for prizes, the announcement said. Students must fill out the disclosure form to be entered into the drawing.

The announcement said other faculty and students will not have access to information submitted through the disclosure form and all individual responses will remain private.

The University will notify winners of the drawings through email and will not disclose winners’ names without their permission.

This story has been updated with SGB comment.