Fall Break unchanged; campaign doesn’t move needle far enough

The University of Central Oklahoma’s “Move the Needle” campaign reported 44% of students registered their vaccinations, 6% short of their first goal. The university spent the weekend and all of Monday tallying the remaining registrations and released the results Tuesday afternoon.

Despite failing to reach 50%, UCO president Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar stated in an email sent out to students that she did not see this as a loss, and appreciated those who stepped up to report their vaccination.

“Thanks to these students, we significantly increased our percentage of student reported vaccinations from 24% over the spring and summer to 44% this fall,” Neuhold-Ravikumar stated.

Fall Break will continue as scheduled: Oct. 14-15. 

Students were asked to upload their vaccination cards as proof of two doses of vaccination or one if it was the Johnson &  Johnson vaccine. According to the CDC, 64.9% of people have completed one dose of the vaccine. In Oklahoma County where UCO is located, 64.8% have received one dose. In the United States, the number of fully vaccinated people is 56%, similar to 54.4% for Oklahoma County. 

Students seemed to like the idea of having an extra day off. When asked about the days off, Finnegan Neu, a junior majoring in general business, said: “They were good incentives. It’s just a lot of students either don’t care or don’t want them.” 

UCO assistant vice president for university communication, Deirdre Steiner, expressed pride in the number of students who came forth to register their vaccinations online regardless of the campaign results.

“Every student that gets vaccinated helps protect themselves and the people around them from the more serious complications of contracting COVID-19. We still encourage all students to consider getting vaccinated as it’s our best shot at getting past the pandemic,” Steiner said.

Last week, the United States surpassed 700,000 deaths from COVID-19. In Oklahoma, 8,949 deaths have been verified, and 1,539 were in Oklahoma County. The age group with the highest percentage of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma County is 34.4% among ages 18 to 35, who were among the last adults to be approved to receive the vaccine. Ages 36 to 49 have the second highest number of cases at 21.5%.

It is possible that students have been vaccinated and simply did not report it to the university. 

Naomi Wharry, a sophomore majoring in music education, said: “A lot of people I know just seemed to forget about reporting their vaccine. They didn’t have their card with them and just kept forgetting to do it.” 

Grace Wilhite, a junior at UCO, also said that she thought the extra fall break days were a good incentive.

Neu had another idea for a way to encourage students to get the vaccine, he said, “I don’t think there would be anything better — other than a scholarship to help pay for school.”

With the CDC recommendation of potentially getting a third COVID-19 vaccine to act as a booster shot, Neu, Wharry and Wilhite all said that they would be willing to get the third injection. To go even further, each of the students said that they would be willing to report their shots again if the university were to offer another incentive. 

Steiner said that while there are currently no plans for an incentive program for the future, she reiterated the importance of continuing to mask up.

“Our administration and the COVID-19 On-Call Task Force are continuing to monitor the situation and encourage continued vaccination and protocols like wearing a mask, hand washing and reporting any cases for contact tracing. These efforts will continue for the foreseeable future. No future incentives are in the works currently. If we do decide to do one again, we will evaluate ‘Move the Needle’ and seek feedback from students, faculty, and staff to make improvements,” Steiner said.

Even though the campus did not reach its goal, Steiner was confident that the “Move the Needle” campaign was for the greater good overall.

“This was something we’ve never done before, so we didn’t know what to expect. But thousands of Central students helped move the needle and that’s something that’s good for everyone,” Steiner said.

The president cautioned students to remain vigilant as the pandemic will continue to challenge everyone this year.

“I encourage every member of our community to consider getting vaccinated if they have not already and to continue wearing a mask indoors around others. The vaccine remains the best way to protect yourself and those around you,” Neuhold-Ravikumar stated.

The next vaccine clinic will be held Wednesday Oct. 6 for UCO faculty, staff, students, and community members 12 years and older at 312 E. Main St, the future home of UCO School of Design (corner of Main and University Drive) and you can sign up at: https://oem.passporthealthglobal.com/ClinicSignUp/Registration/UCOCOVIDVax 

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