Barriers to Equity In Childhood COVID-19 Vaccination

Expanding the COVID-19 vaccination recommendation to children ages 5 through 11 years paves the way for 28 million more children to receive the vaccine. However, we know many children have faced barriers to vaccination in the past.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination barriers, which children are at the greatest risk, and find out lessons learned from schools and families.

chart line icon As more children receive COVID-19 vaccines, CDC is tracking progress.

Children at a Greater Risk for COVID-19 Face Vaccination Barriers

There are some children at greater risk from COVID-19. Many of these same children may face additional barriers in getting vaccinated.

Priority groups for CDC include:
  • Children who are unable to visit a pediatrician often ─ such as those who are experiencing homelessness or those who live in rural areas.
  • Children who have historical disadvantages when it comes to health ─ such as those in racial and ethnic minority groups or households with lower incomes.
  • Children with developmental disabilities ─ such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, or an intellectual disability.
  • Children who have special healthcare needs ─ such as lung, heart, or kidney disease, an immune system problem, malignancy, diabetes, some blood diseases, or conditions of the muscular or central nervous system.
  • Children living in congregate settings ─ such as those who are incarcerated or detained or those who live in group homes.
  • Children who are non-English speakers, immigrants, or with undocumented status.
illustration of vaccinated child wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker

Children from certain racial and ethnic minority groups are not only more likely to become sick or die from COVID-19, but they are also more likely to have lost a parent or caregiver to the disease.

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Historical Vaccine Disparities and Barriers Among Children
What we know from flu vaccinations:

Past research on influenza (flu) has shown racial and ethnic minority groups have had lower rates of flu vaccination. These disparities have been identified in both adults and children.

  • During the past few flu seasons, some racial and ethnic groups were more likely than others to get a flu vaccine.
  • Most children who received a flu vaccine last year got it in a doctor’s office.
  • Language, insurance status, ability to take time off work and other factors can reduce a family’s ability to go to the doctor regularly.

Based on experience with flu vaccination challenges, alternative strategies are needed to reach all children ages 5 years and older with COVID-19 vaccines.

illustration of vaccinated child waving and wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker

syringe solid icon Black children have had the lowest rates of flu vaccination for the past three years and were more likely than other children to become very sick from the flu.

Lessons Learned About Vaccination Barriers from Schools and Families

Qualitative data from schools and organizations serving K-12 students emphasize the importance of creating communication for the group meant to receive it.

All public health professionals and partners at the federal, state, and local levels are encouraged to:
illustration of vaccinated child waving and wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker.

people icon CDC underlines the importance of addressing all people inclusively and respectfully.

Page last reviewed: January 20, 2022