Student-athletes 'get in the game' to promote getting the COVID-19 vaccine

From left, Adam Elkharraz, Derrell Redd, Fredo Delgado and Christian McClease appear on a digital billboard in New Haven to promote getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

From left, Adam Elkharraz, Derrell Redd, Fredo Delgado and Christian McClease appear on a digital billboard in New Haven to promote getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Richard Dow / Barrett Outdoor Communications

The city of New Haven is beginning its bilingual multimedia campaign in earnest this week to encourage city residents of all ages to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Part of this campaign has been on display with a video and a billboard of four student-athletes encouraging their peers to get vaccinated.

Fredo Delgado, Christian McClease, Derrell Redd and Adam Elkharraz were a part of the video and photo shoot, the latter of which has been displayed on a digital billboard on the downtown Route 34 connector.

It reads “Get back in the game. Get vaccinated.” And also contains a website to find factual information about receiving the vaccine. The picture of all four athletes are on the billboard.

“Yes it overwhelmingly exceeded our expectations,” said Dr. Maritza Bond, the director of public health for the city. “With school about to begin, protecting residents, especially our youth and communities of color, against the more transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 is urgently important. ... By using a peer-to-peer youth messaging campaign is a good way to encourage vaccinations and safe practices to combat the spread of the new strain of the virus.”

Bond and Erik Patchkofsky, New Haven’s citywide athletic director, said it was a collaborative effort to figure out a way to reach teenagers through messaging. Patchkofsky said all four student-athletes worked for him in the Summer Youth Work Program in New Haven’s athletic department.

“We wanted to show that the vaccine is effective so other student-athletes are comfortable getting the vaccine,” Patchkofsky said.

Said Redd, now attending Hamden High: “When I saw (the billboard), I thought I was famous. I got a lot of texts about it. I walked in the store (recently) and someone (he didn’t know) said, ‘Hey, you are on the billboard.’”

Bond said the campaign was shot by both Leigh Busby and Donnell Durden at Goffe Street Park (DeGale Field) earlier this month. Delgado, McClease and Redd passed it around the perimeter and Elkharraz (now attending West Haven High) hit the shot.

McClease, who like Delgado plays basketball at Wilbur Cross, said it took between 90 minutes and two hours to complete the shoot.

“I got a lot of nice responses,” McClease said. “It’s a good way to get people to get the vaccination.”

Said Delgado: ”I was just happy I was on the billboard.”

Bond said that picture, along with several others shot for the campaign, will be seen on other billboards and buses in New Haven. The videos will be shown on TV and radio commercials, along with YouTube and other social media platforms.

“It’s inspiring to see young people promoting the vaccination in our community. This kind of leadership reflects the values that make New Haven strong,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said in a statement.

Patchkofsky, who is also responsible for helping oversee the district’s response to COVID, said there will likely be vaccination clinics for the Back to Sports nights being held at Wilbur Cross (Tuesday), Hillhouse (Wednesday) and Career (Thursday).; @nhrJoeMorelli