Local vaccination campaign hopes to increase vaccination rates for young people


The “Rock the Vax” vaccination campaign targets the young population of New Haven with various incentives.

Journalist & Contributor

Sai Rayala, collaborating photographer

In addition to free pizza and live music, the New Haven Health Department hosted a “Rock the Vax” event on Saturday to encourage young people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The event was held at 333 Valley Street Center: An Intergenerational Organization, Inc. – nicknamed “The Shack” – and is one of several immunization clinics held in Ward 30 during September. The Department of Health organized the event in partnership with Griffin Health and Ward 30 Alder Honda Smith to target youth living in the neighborhood. According to New Haven COVID-19 Website, only 37% of New Haven teens aged 12 to 15 received their first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, and only 30% received their second dose.

“When [Alder Smith] contacted us for this partnership, we thought, it’s ideal for us to be able to educate parents, encourage parents to get vaccinated if they are not, but also be able to make sure that we have the parental consent for young people while they are being deposited, ”New Haven Health director Maritza Bond told The News.

Robb Blocker, a nurse in charge of the health ministry clinic, said the ministry has used various strategies to encourage vaccination in the community and to “show our appreciation” to people who get vaccinated. In addition to live music and free food, other events offered free backpacks, thermometers, and gift cards. Carolyn Kinder, acting executive director of 333 Valley Street Center, noted that these incentives lead to higher attendance on weekends, especially when students are out of school and parents often don’t have to. work.

The Department of Health has also promoted vaccination through methods such as social media messaging and billboards and mobile advertising. Ward 30 resident Jerrell Meritt told The News he regularly distributes flyers around the neighborhood and is broadcast live on social media to encourage others to come to immunization clinics. Smith tagged residents individually on Facebook to personally ask them to get the vaccine. Bond has also orchestrated partnerships with New Haven public schools and organizations like City Angels, a nonprofit baseball academy, to directly involve young people in vaccination campaigns.

“It starts with the community and it ends with the community,” Bond said. “We want to involve the community in this process so that we can influence others. ”

Despite these attempts, some vaccine skepticism persists in the New Haven community.

Blocker said the rise of the Delta variant has prompted many people to get the vaccine, but there is still a small group of residents who are wary of the vaccine. He believes the community needs more education and conversations about the vaccine in order to improve immunization rates across the city.

Smith also said that vaccination requirements to enter certain settings may play a role in getting young people to get vaccinated. Ward 30 is currently planning to organize events for young and old at the Shack to foster intergenerational partnerships. COVID-19 vaccinations will be required at the community center, which Smith says has encouraged some young people to change their minds about the vaccine.

Other residents discussed the importance of being direct and honest with people who have not been vaccinated. Merrit said he had had conversations with young children in his neighborhood who had been hesitant in the past, but that they usually had to “come back” to get the shot.

“You have to talk to them directly,” Meritt said. “You know you’re going to have symptoms [from the vaccine], but not so bad [as if you had COVID]. “

According to New York Times Coronavirus Tracker, 66% of the population of New Haven is fully vaccinated as of September 20.

In addition to free pizza and live music, the New Haven Health Department hosted a “Rock the Vax” event on Saturday to encourage young people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.


Sai Rayala writes about climate and environmental efforts in New Haven. Originally from Powell, Ohio, she is in her first year at Timothy Dwight College and plans to major in history.


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