The Race to End COVID-19


The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has now reached nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population with at least one vaccination, but challenges remain to reach more adults and, now, adolescents over the age of 12. States are considering a variety of incentives, including the State of Ohio which is awarding $1 million in a lottery to five people who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine. This weekend I attended an event in Alabama with a creative incentive—the opportunity to drive the famed Talladega Superspeedway for those receiving a vaccine or test on Saturday.

“Vaccinations are safe and effective to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, and testing remains important to detecting COVID-19 infections,” according to the CDC Foundation’s President and CEO Judy Monroe, MD, who attended the event and got the chance to ride in a Talladega pace car. “We were excited to be part of this event that helped to not only vaccinate and test people, but to widely get the word out about the importance of these two activities in protecting us all. The event and my ride in the pace car were thrilling!”

Talladega Superspeedway features 33-degree banks and is the longest track in NASCAR at 2.66 miles. It also is one of the most challenging tracks, particularly when as many as 34 drivers are flying around the tri-oval at speeds between 150-200 miles per hour. The opportunity to actually drive your vehicle on the speedway—be it a Dodge minivan or a Corvette convertible—was a rare one. And, thankfully, no drivers hit top speeds this past weekend because a pace car ensured everyone stayed at highway speeds.

Partners for the event, entitled The Race to End COVID, included the Alabama Department of Public Health, Talladega Superspeedway, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Alabama National Guard, eTrueNorth, and the CDC Foundation. Importantly, the event received strong local, regional and national news coverage.

Everyone vaccinated at this extraordinary opportunity is sure to talk about it within their communities, spurring even more people to get the vaccine.

“I want to give a huge thank you to the partners for this event. It required a tremendous effort in a short timeframe, and it speaks to the dedication of both public health protection workers and the business community to come together to end COVID-19. Plus, it was an exhilarating experience,” said Dr. Monroe.

While there are hopeful signs in the fight against COVID-19 in the United States, there is a long way to go. Getting word out through events like the Race to End COVID and other incentive-based activities may help encourage those considering vaccination or testing to do so. It’s critical we all continue to work together to get more people vaccinated as well as ensure that those with symptoms can get tested for COVID-19.

Together, we can end the COVID-19 epidemic.

Photos: © Ryan Johnson/CDC Foundation

Pierce Nelson
Pierce Nelson is the chief communications officer for the CDC Foundation.