Athletics department partners with department of health to offer free football tickets to those who receive COVID-19 vaccine
Ryan Peters | Friday, November 5, 2021
When St. Joseph County deputy health officer Dr. Mark Fox and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick periodically met during the late spring and into the fall, Swarbrick would frequently ask if there was any way Notre Dame athletics could help with the local vaccination effort in St. Joseph County, Fox said.
Notre Dame has occasionally partnered with the St. Joseph County department of health in the past, but Fox said he was unaware of any close partnerships between the department of health and Notre Dame athletic department — until Swarbrick pitched an idea that gained traction.
Swarbrick asked if Notre Dame could help incentivize people to get the COVID-19 vaccine by offering complimentary football tickets to those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Fox accepted the idea, assistant athletics director of strategic communications Aaron Horvath said.
The deal offers two free tickets to either of the final two home football games of the season against Navy on Saturday or against Georgia Tech on Nov. 20 for those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the St. Joseph County department of health supported clinic in the South Bend County-City building, as long as tickets are available, according to Fox and a department of health press release.
Fox said the offer is targeted at people who are in the “wait and see” category of approaching getting vaccinated. He said the incentive — along with the federal vaccination mandate for large employers, which was issued Thursday — should help sway some who are hesitant to receive the vaccine.
“I don’t think anyone who’s kind of a dedicated either committed anti-vaxxer or who’s dead set against the COVID vaccine, I don’t think it’s going to sway them,” Fox said. “So if this is something that just nudges someone in that ‘wait and see’ category to go ahead and get vaccinated now, that’s to their benefit and to the benefit of the county.”
52.3% of the total St. Joseph County population is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, according to data from the South Bend government. Fox said this number is subject to a slight increase in the coming months as five to 11-year-old children start to receive the vaccine. He said the ticket incentive, which was announced Oct. 12, has also helped boost the vaccination rate slightly.
“I think the response has been modest, but it has been noticed,” Fox said.
Fox said even five to 11 year-olds who come in to receive the vaccine while tickets are still available to the Navy and Georgia Tech games are eligible to receive the free tickets. He added that people who were vaccinated prior to the offer who have been calling in to the health department asking for free tickets are not eligible.
Horvath said the athletics department is constantly searching for ways to give back to the community through its “GLD Center.”
“Whenever there’s an opportunity that we feel like Notre Dame athletics could help the greater community we want to try to find and exhaust all options,” Horvath said. “And we thought this was a great way to potentially help the community raise vaccination rates while also giving some in the community the opportunity to come to a Notre Dame football game.”