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'A continuance of what we've been doing': Mercer University participating in national College Vaccine Campus Challenge

President Joe Biden and the U.S. Department of Education are enlisting the help of college campuses to get 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4.

MACON, Ga. — Most Mercer University students are now home for the summer, but the administration says their efforts to make sure as many students get vaccinated as possible doesn't stop because school is out.

Vice provost Kelly Reffitt says Mercer University started vaccinating on campus back in March.

"The goal is for institutions to publicly support students and employees getting vaccinated," she says.

She says that's what made getting involved in the College Vaccine Challenge a no-brainer.

"This is just a continuance of what we've been doing."

Colleges who take on the challenge commit to three action steps geared towards educating students about the vaccine and making them feel comfortable getting it, but Reffitt says for right now, it's not a requirement.

"We do not require students to be vaccinated at this time but we do encourage them to get vaccinated," says Reffitt.

And that's the same goal that student body president Rylan Allen says he has, as he continues talking to students who may be hesitant.

"We've been talking to students, making sure they understand it's important to trust science, it's important to protect yourself from other variants of COVID as well," he says.

Part of the challenge includes making sure the vaccine is available for all students and staff who want it.

Allen says Mercer checks that box.

"Mercer is a small campus so it is completely walkable so it's pretty easy to go in the middle of the campus where the vaccine station is to get your vaccine and go on about your day."

Allen adds that there's also an added incentive -- not having to get regular COVID-19 tests.

"Vaccinated students will be exempted from COVID-19 surveillance testing and unvaccinated students will still be subjected to surveillance testing," says Allen.

Mercer University says they plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine social media campaign this summer.

Other Georgia colleges participating in the challenge include the University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University, and Fort Valley State University.