Hitting the Track in Delaware: The Race to End COVID

Over the past 21 months, the CDC Foundation has been working across the country to assist communities and public health departments in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have supported emergency relief efforts for residents, provided personal protective equipment for frontline workers, sponsored research and national COVID-19 educational campaigns, and served side by side with city, state and federal officials at testing and vaccination events.

And we’ve let people live out their dream of driving on a NASCAR track.

That’s an element of the Race to End COVID, one of the innovative campaigns the CDC Foundation has sponsored to encourage people to get vaccinated.

At Race to End COVID events, two of which have been held to date, adults who get vaccinated for COVID-19 also get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive their own car around a NASCAR track. Earlier this month, I watched as drivers lined up for vaccinations at the Dover International Speedway in Delaware then lined up behind a pace car for two laps at highway speed around “The Monster Mile” and its 24-degree banked turns.

The Dover event was a partnership of the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH), the Dover International Speedway and our team at the CDC Foundation.

The Race to End COVID is fun for participants, and it’s thrilling to be part of—even for those of us who are more comfortable in the slow lane—because it is proof that diligent efforts to engage people on their vaccination journey are working.

Today, nearly 80 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And even now, months after the vaccines became available to this audience, more people are choosing for the first time to get vaccinated. People like Nick.

Nick was one of over 300 NASCAR fans to get vaccinated at the Race to End COVID in Dover. And his story reminded me why it remains important to collaborate on targeted events that reach people who have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines for whatever reason.

Nick received his first dose at the Monster Mile. He said he was initially apprehensive about getting a COVID vaccine, but he appreciated that the event was close to his home and at a location he trusted. It was clear that a familiar and enjoyable setting helped make him more comfortable with the vaccine.

“That was pretty fun,” Nick said in the end. “I would definitely recommend it to other people. You get a cool experience and memories to build.”

Our work isn’t finished. There are many more Nicks out there. It’s critical for all of us involved in the vaccination effort—public health organizations, community leaders, government officials, employers, and others—to connect with them, listen to their concerns, put them at ease, educate them on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, and help them navigate any barriers of language, geography, or access to the vaccine. We have to meet people where they are.

The Race to End COVID is unique, but it’s also an example of some of the CDC Foundation’s core values, including collaboration and constant innovation. Together with our multi-sector partners, we will keep doing this work and finding approaches that speak to people like Nick until we end the pandemic.

We’re finishing this race.

Help us cross the finish line of the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the Race to End COVID, visit www.racetoendcovid.org.

Turquoise Sidibe
Turquoise Sidibe, MPH, is the associate vice president for emergency response for the CDC Foundation.