80 McNeese students take advantage of ‘Shot For 100’

Nearly 80 McNeese State University students received a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic on campus Thursday. Those students were eligible to get $100 as part of a statewide incentive to get younger people vaccinated.

The Louisiana Department of Health’s new “Shot For 100” program offers $100 to the first 75,000 students who get the COVID-19 vaccine at participating colleges and universities. Students receive a Visa card upon getting the vaccine and get $100 on the card once they register online at shotfor100.com.

Trinity Olivier, an 18-year-old freshman at McNeese, said her friends told her about the vaccine distribution. She said she was unaware of the “Shot For 100” program, but was excited to get the money.

Olivier said she had COVID-19 last July and had minimal symptoms. She said she chose to get vaccinated now because she didn’t want to risk getting her grandparents or anyone else sick, especially with the fall semester year starting.

“I think it’s important during this time to be safe and do what the doctors tell us,” she said. “If (the vaccine) is what they’re telling us that we need to do, it’s going to be easier on everyone if we just stop being so skeptical about it and just go on and get it so everyone can be better and safe.”

Aidan Jernigan, 19, is a sophomore at McNeese. He heard about the vaccine clinic through a friend’s Snapchat story and also didn’t know about the $100 incentive.

“Come get your $100 because I know (students are) broke,” he joked.

Jernigan said he got the vaccine because his mother is a teacher in New Orleans.

“It meant a lot to her,” he said. “She was telling me it’s getting really bad everywhere, especially for young people.”

Jernigan said people should get the vaccine to help build up herd immunity.

“I think that’s one of the only ways that this will start settling down,” he said. “It would be nice to not have to wear masks on campus too.”

Chris Thomas, McNeese vice president for student affairs, said the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center reached out to McNeese and offered to put on the clinic. He said McNeese has not taken part in incentive programs to get students vaccinated against COVID-19, and Thursday’s event was simply to facilitate the state Health Department’s incentive program. COVID-19 vaccines are available at the student health clinic, and McNeese held multiple vaccine clinics over the summer, Thomas said.

“As an institution, McNeese has taken the stance that what we want to do is offer people information and then have people choose to be vaccinated, if that’s their choice,” he said. “I want people to work hard to seek out all the information and to make what they feel is the best judgement for themselves.”

The University of Louisiana System, which McNeese is under, will put the COVID-19 vaccine under the list of mandatory vaccines once it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Thomas said. However, he said, students have the option to be granted a waiver against taking mandatory vaccines. Thomas added that students who opt out of a vaccine, such as meningitis, and live on campus housing, would have to leave housing if an outbreak was reported.

“There’s a balance,” he said.

Brian Burton, CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, said the last 18 months have left staff, including nurses and data clerks, exhausted.

“We don’t have people to fill positions,” he said.

Burton said he was encouraged by the turnout of Thursday’s vaccine clinic, but added it was a one-time event. He said demand for rapid COVID-19 testing is high, with 175 tests administered Wednesday at the Calcasieu Health Unit.

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