CDC, universities are paying students to be vaccine influencers

Students can become paid COVID vaccine influencers through a new Student Social Media Engagement Campaign program.

The campaign recruits students to ‘combat vaccine misinformation and build vaccine confidence within their campus communities’ through TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms.

In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College Health Association (ACHA), and Youth Marketing Connection (YMC), universities are promoting paid internships for students who push COVID vaccines 

Students chosen for the Student Social Media Engagement Campaign program will act as influencers who “combat vaccine misinformation and build vaccine confidence within their campus communities.”

The program launched in June 2021 and will continue through the fall semester. Each student influencer will receive a cash stipend, according to a July 8 announcement put out by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). 

Job requirements include promoting the vaccine by sharing information on Instagram and TikTok, advocating for the ACHA’s CoVAC initiative, and leading “digital outreach efforts to increase vaccine confidence among peers.” Students are also expected to provide updates on campus COVID-19 vaccine attitudes. 

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The Student Social Media Engagement Campaign is part of the ACHA’s broader CoVAC initiative, which is designed to increase campus vaccinations and includes $3,000 mini-grants for colleges that want to implement marketing for the vaccine. Many campuses across the country have already mandated the vaccine for the Fall semester.

The ACHA did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for information on how internships are funded or on what other schools are participating. 

Aside from UNLV, UC Cincinnati also announced its participation in the program when it highlighted a student ambassador on its website.

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Similar student influencer efforts have been independently sponsored at other universities. In fall 2020, the University of Missouri hired five students to become campus influencers for COVID-19 safety. The university paid Canadian company Glacier $10,3000 to run the project, according to Columbia Missourian.

The University of Miami likewise hired 75 students in fall 2020 to serve as “Public Health Ambassadors,” strategically placing them in high-traffic areas of campus to encourage peers to follow social distancing and masking. The practice, one student told News@TheU, was highly effective.

“We are becoming recognized now by our shirts. So, when they see me approach, I don’t even have to tell someone to do something—they automatically see me, and they’ll fix their mask or something,” UM senior Camille told News@TheU.

Campus Reform reached out to the CDC, ACHA, YMC, and UNLV for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @katesrichardson.