By Newsweek |

Alabama Sets Up COVID Vaccine Sites at College Football Games, Offering Gift Card for Jab

This fall, as Alabama tries to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, college football fans will be able to collect $75 gift cards for university bookstores if they get vaccinated at gamedays under a new initiative.

KICK COVID was announced by the Alabama Department of Public Health on Thursday, a program that entails providing vaccination and testing sites at some games, player appearances in promotions and the gift card giveaways in an effort to vaccinate the population.

"We all know about our love of football here in the state of Alabama," said Gene Hallman, president and co-owner of the Bruno Event Team, a sports event management company partnering on the program.

The program will be available at the University of Alabama and Auburn University games on September 25 and at select games during September and October.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

KICK COVID

College football fans in Alabama will be able to collect $75 gift cards for university bookstores if they get vaccinated during the state's KICK COVID campaign this fall. Long Snapper Luke Barnes of the Alabama State Hornets celebrates a win after the game against the Jackson State Tigers at New ASU Stadium on March 20 in Montgomery, Alabama. Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

"We view the central aspect of this program as being college football and the players themselves—speaking in their own authentic sincere voices—asking their fans and fellow students to please go and get that vaccine."

State Health Officer Scott Harris said he is hopeful it can boost vaccination uptake in a state where college football games are a major event in people's weekends. Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, ranking at the bottom among states for the percentage of people fully vaccinated and in the bottom 10 for the percentage of people who are partially vaccinated.

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"I think this is something that probably might not work in every state in the union, but in the South, particularly in Alabama where college football is such an important part of everyone's life...I think we have a really good opportunity to make this a very successful program."

Hallman said the $75 gift card to campus bookstores is a way of saying "thank you" to the newly vaccinated. The program is the state's first monetary reward for vaccinations, although local areas and universities have already offered such freebies.

People can get the $75 gift card to the campus bookstore by getting vaccinated at the KICK COVID vaccination site at their team's selected gameday or by getting the first dose two weeks ahead of the game and uploading their vaccine card to the KICK COVID site. Only vaccinations started within 14 days of the select gameday are eligible.

Harris said the Alabama Department of Public Health is using revenue streams from several sources to fund the program.

This is not the first-time football has been harnessed as a tool to urge vaccinations.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban and other sports figures taped a public service announcement earlier this year encouraging Alabamians to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"College football fans and players both want full stadiums this fall. Let's make sure we can safely make this happen by getting vaccinated. Please get your COVID-19 vaccine," Saban said in the spot. "We want Bryant-Denny Stadium loud again this coming season and Roll Tide!"