EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) — Sixty-eight percent of UTEP’s student-athletes have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Saturday, Aug. 14, a UTEP official has confirmed to KTSM.

That percentage includes athletes across 14 sports; of a total 279 athletes at UTEP, 190 have been fully vaccinated.

UTEP provided KTSM with the vaccination rates for football, soccer and volleyball, three fall sports that have begun or will begin competition in the coming weeks.

The football team currently has a vaccination rate of 61 percent, or 73 of the 120 football student-athletes.

UTEP women’s volleyball has a current COVID vaccination rate of 86 percent, meaning 18 of the 21 players on the volleyball team have been full vaccinated.

The Miners’ women’s soccer team has the highest vaccination rate of those three sports. 29 of the 30 players (97 percent) on the soccer team have been full vaccinated as of Aug. 14.

Adding up just those three sports, 120 of 171 student-athletes between football, soccer and volleyball have been vaccinated for a percentage of 70 percent, slightly higher than the overall number the university reported to KTSM.

All of the rates listed are only for student-athletes and do not include UTEP coaches. KTSM has submitted an open records request to UTEP to receive the fully-vaccinated marks for coaches and student-athletes in all 14 sports and is currently awaiting a response.

A UTEP official told KTSM that as more student-athletes arrive to campus for the fall semester, the vaccination rate is expected to increase.

UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter said at a press conference on Aug. 5 that he would like the entire athletic department to see a fully vaccinated rate somewhere between 70-90 percent for its student athletes, but acknowledged that UTEP had “some work to do” to get there.

“I would prefer that we have at least herd immunity and if you ask people, ‘what’s the percentage for herd immunity?’ that even fluctuates a bit,” Senter said. “70, 75, 80, 85, 90 percent. Some of that herd immunity might be dictated by what sport you play and how close in proximity you are to other individuals as you play your sport.

“I would prefer to see a 100 percent vaccination, because I believe it will save lives and it will suppress the virus from being spread to other more vulnerable populations,” Senter continued. “That’s my goal; I don’t believe we’ll be there, nor do I think we’ll get there, not just on our teams but in El Paso and in America.”

As of Aug. 14, UTEP’s fully-vaccinated rate of 68 percent is below Senter’s low-end estimation (70 percent) of where he’d like the athletic department to be. In El Paso as a whole, 71 percent of citizens ages 12 and over are fully vaccinated; 83.4 percent are partially vaccinated.

That number dips considerably around the state of Texas, which has a fully vaccinated rate of 45 percent; 51 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated.

Senter spent a portion of his Aug. 5 press conference encouraging student-athletes, coaches and all people who hadn’t yet been vaccinated to do so, while also acknowledging that it is each person’s choice.

“All the data shows that folks who are vaccinated have a much less-likelihood to contract the virus and if they do, they’ll probably have minimized effects,” said Senter. “So that’s our message to our student-athletes and our faculty, staff and students. But, that’s every single person’s individual and personal choice.”

UTEP’s football vaccination rate of 61 percent is less than the rate at New Mexico State. According to the Las Cruces Sun News, 74.3 percent of the Aggies’ football team was fully vaccinated as of Aug. 3. Per the Sun News, NMSU’s overall student-athlete vaccination rate was 64 percent as of Aug. 3, less than the overall rate at UTEP.

UTEP head coach Dana Dimel told the media on Aug. 5 that he was “urging” his players to get vaccinated, but again acknowledged that it was up to the players.

“Our job is to educate them,” said Dimel. “You can’t do a lot as a head coach; it’s their personal choice so I have to stay in my lane. But more and more of our players are getting vaccinated.”

UTEP football will open the season Aug. 28 on the road in the Battle of I-10 vs. New Mexico State at 7:30 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

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