Background: Public health strategies to improve COVID-19 vaccine uptake among college students living in residential communities varied, some universities opted to mandate COVID-19 vaccines while other universities opted to promote and influence the choice for vaccination.
Purpose: This descriptive, cross-sectional study examined the voluntary uptake of COVID-19 vaccines among residential students on a college campus in the southeastern U.S. that elected an evidence-driven health promotion strategy that included strong health promotion messaging coupled with coordinated efforts to make the vaccine accessible and appealing to students on campus.
Methods: Analysis of vaccine uptake was derived from campus electronic health records during the fall of 2021 (N=2,867). The Vaccine Uptake Continuum and the Diffusion of Innovation Theory were used to explore patterns of vaccine uptake in the residential undergraduate population by date of vaccination, class, college of study, and residence hall.
Results: On a college campus where voluntary COVID-19 vaccination was promoted and accessibility of the vaccine was both free and convenient, vaccination rates reached almost 80% amongst undergraduate students living in residential communities by October 15, 2021 (78.7%, N=2,867). The largest uptake in vaccinations occurred between March 7, 2021, and May 9, 2021 (69.7%, N=1,998), when the vaccine was first promoted and made accessible to students at large, coordinated vaccine events on campus. For students who were classified as late adopters or laggards, campus protocols related to vaccination status coupled with persistent messaging from leadership and readily accessible vaccines influenced an additional 5.1% (N=147) of students to get vaccinated after return campus on August 19th. Although vaccine coverage expressed as a percentage was relatively even across residence halls, those residence halls with the largest total population and rooms with double or triple occupancy also had high absolute numbers of students who did not upload proof of vaccination. Analysis by residence hall highlighted transmission risk and outbreak vulnerability.
Conclusion: The project findings support the need for vaccine accessibility on campus and incentivizing vaccination through university protocols. Accessibility and convenience had a clear impact on students’ uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine on campus. However, accessibility is not enough to guarantee receipt of vaccination, campus culture, policies and protocols can positively influence students’ perceptions of the acceptability of public health interventions. Analysis of vaccine uptake variability between dormitories and colleges on campus helped inform public health strategies to promote campus health and safety. Residential communities with lower vaccination rates may benefit from targeted health promotion messaging related to vaccination as well as the application of other public health tools including surveillance testing, frequent sanitization of highly trafficked areas, and mask-wearing to promote and protect the health of students in residential communities and the broader campus community.
Dr. Elizabeth Morse
Scholarly Project Team Member
Dr. David Phillippi
Scholarly Project Team Member
Nursing, School of
Health Sciences & Nursing, Gordon E. Inman College of
Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)
COVID-19; Vaccines; Vaccine Uptake Continuum; College Students; Diffusion of Innovation; Health Promotion
Hoening, Erin; Morse, Elizabeth; Phillippi, David; and Huesmann, Krystal, "COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake Among College Students" (2022). DNP Scholarly Projects. 63.
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