Middle Tennessee State University has joined campuses across the nation in signing up for President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge to help raise the COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S. to 70% by the Fourth of July.
The White House and the U.S. Department of Education are inviting institutions nationwide to join the effort, which seeks to boost the nation’s vaccination rate above the current 63% over the coming weeks, with Tennessee’s vaccination rate standing at only 32%.
MTSU was the first Tennessee university to sign on to the challenge as a "Vaccine Champion University" and has since been joined by East Tennessee State University and Lane College among the 350-plus colleges and universities across 46 states that have signed on thus far.
Participating colleges commit to taking three key actions to help get their campus communities vaccinated: engaging every student, faculty, and staff member; organizing their college communities; and delivering vaccine access for all.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said the vaccine challenge builds on efforts across the country and on the Blue Raider campus over the past year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. MTSU recently lifted its campuswide mask mandate and social distancing requirements, and continues on-campus vaccination clinics by Student Health Services.
“As we prepare to return to a more normal level of in-person campus activity this fall, it’s important to remember that the pandemic is not over and that we must all continue to be vigilant and take common sense steps to bring this virus under further control,” McPhee said. “MTSU is proud to join the many other college campuses around the country in doing our part to encourage our community to get vaccinated.”
MTSU also will build upon its recent “Don’t Miss Your Shot” vaccination awareness campaign launched earlier in the spring. Since on-campus vaccinations clinics began, MTSU has administered just over 10,000 total vaccines, with roughly 3,360 of those shots going to students age 17-26.
As part of its participation in the challenge, MTSU organizations and departments such as the Division of Student Affairs, the Student Government Association, Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, Fraternity and Sorority Life, June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, Alumni Relations, MT Athletics and others will use their online platforms to raise awareness about the need to get vaccinated and recruit student, faculty and alumni “vaccine champions” to help spread the word through testimonials and social media posts.
“Part of being True Blue is being engaged in our campus community,” said new SGA President Winton Cooper. “As one of the many student leaders on our campus, I’m excited to be a part of this effort to ensure that it as safe as possible for everyone to return to campus this fall. So I would encourage as many of my fellow students as possible to get educated, then get vaccinated!”
MTSU Health Services continues to offer vaccine clinics to students, faculty, staff and retirees at CUSTOMS new student orientation sessions this summer. Vaccination appointments are available at https://www.mtsu.edu/healthservices/covid-vaccine.php.
Because the campus population drops during summer sessions, MTSU’s Division of Marketing and Communications will continue awareness efforts throughout the summer and into early fall semester with updated campus signage and messaging while also offering various incentives to students to combat any vaccine hesitancy.
“It is our goal to create safe environments for our students to live and learn,” Student Health Center Director Richard Chapman said. “We are fortunate to live at a time when medical advances have brought us a safe and effective vaccine. We know that some people will have legitimate questions and concerns about the vaccination options, and we are happy to make time to address those for our students and their families.”
MTSU currently has supplies of the two-shot Moderna vaccine, which is being given during CUSTOMS orientation sessions throughout the summer, and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for walk-ins until end of June. Those receiving the two-shot Moderna vaccine are directed to https://vaccinefinder.org/ to schedule their second shot either locally or in their respective hometowns.
MTSU health officials are seeking state assistance in capturing vaccination numbers for students not on campus during the summer in order to better track the ongoing vaccination efforts.