Alabama and Georgia will unite against ‘common opponent’ of Covid-19 during national championship football game

University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne and University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart are participating in a television ad that will air during the College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday night, with both encouraging viewers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and get their booster shots.

“We’re rivals on the field, but off it — we face a common opponent: Covid,” Byrne says in the ad.

“And now Omicron is lining up for a blitz,” Smart adds, calling Covid-19 vaccines and boosters “our best defense.”

The 30-second ad, paid for by the US Department of Health and Human Services, comes as the Biden administration is working to find creative ways to reach more Americans and press the importance of vaccination, particularly as the Omicron variant surges across the country.
The attempt to reach an audience that isn’t usually hearing the administration’s message comes as many eyes from two states with low vaccination rates will be tuned to Monday’s big game. In Alabama, approximately 48.1% of residents are fully vaccinated, and in Georgia, 51.4% of residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 62.6% of Americans fully vaccinated overall, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccines and boosters, an HHS official told CNN, are “the most powerful tool to fight Omicron.”

“Right now, the unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized and 20 times more likely to die than those who’ve been vaccinated and boosted,” the official said.

The ad builds on other administration partnerships through HHS’ COVID-19 Community Corps, including athletic groups Athletes for Hope, Pac-12 and the Big 12.

The effort comes as the administration continues its work to combat vaccine misinformation and promote awareness of the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines. The White House has worked with pop stars Ciara and Olivia Rodrigo, as well as TikTok influencer Benny Drama, to promote vaccines.

Byrne encourages viewers to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. And for those who are, he says, “Stay in the game with a booster.”


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