Equity in Childhood COVID-19 Vaccination
CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older, and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible.
- How CDC is Helping Get COVID-19 Vaccines to Children
- Barriers to Equity in Childhood COVID-19 Vaccination
- Lessons Learned about Vaccination Barriers from Schools and Families
COVID-19 vaccine equity is when all people who are eligible ─ including children ─ have fair access to COVID-19 vaccination.
We know some children will face barriers to receiving COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. On this page, learn what work is currently being done and get resources to improve vaccine access in your community.
- Making sure vaccines and boosters are available in convenient places and at different times of the day and evening.
- Tracking vaccination trends among children of different ages, genders, racial and ethnic groups, and geographic regions to rapidly identify places where more efforts are needed.
- Sharing health information through trusted messengers, such as faith-based and community leaders, and in multiple languages Funding partners working to build vaccine confidence by offering vaccines and communicating with parents in community spaces like community clinics, libraries, and children’s museums.
- Funding Prevention Research Centers to implement and evaluate programs training pediatric primary care professionals to communicate with parents about COVID-19 vaccination and empower youth to serve as COVID-19 vaccine ambassadors with their peers.
Some children are at greater risk for COVID-19 and may face additional barriers in getting vaccinated, including:
- 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.
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 6 months and older with COVID-19 vaccines.
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.
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.
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:
- Use a health equity lens when framing information about health disparities.
- Consider key health communications principles, such as using person-first language (e.g., “a person with diabetes” instead of “a diabetic”) and avoiding unintentional blaming.
- Use preferred terms for select population groups and communities while recognizing that there isn’t always an agreement on these terms.
- Consider how communications, messages, and products are developed ─ looking for ways to improve health equity and inclusivity.
- Pediatricians are often the ones who vaccinate children, and many do this through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. However, pediatricians are not the only providers who can vaccinate and boost children.
- In many areas, pharmacies and community clinics—such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health clinics, and community health centers—also administer vaccines and boosters to children, and some of these are also VFC providers.
- Many schools and school districts partner with health departments, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers to hold School Located Vaccine Clinics (SLVs) to vaccinate children and families of school children who may not otherwise have access.
- Community organizations, including faith-based organizations, can serve as an informational resource to help families find community-based vaccination sites.
In medically underserved communities of Washington, DC, MedStar Health is taking COVID-19 vaccines “on the road” ─ making sure the newest group of eligible children have easy access to the lifesaving vaccines.
Children were vaccinated at pediatric offices and in mobile clinics across these communities.
The Montgomery County Immunization Coalition (MCIC) in Pennsylvania arranged tailored town halls on COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 through 11 years for Black/African American, Asian American, and Hispanic/Latino parents, with content delivered in English and Spanish.
The following resources can help providers and organizations increase children’s COVID-19 vaccine access within their communities.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Equity for Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups
- A Guide for Community Partners: Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake Among Members of Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities (Also available in Spanish)
- Health Equity Considerations and Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups
- Communication Toolkit for Migrants, Refugees and Other Limited-English-Proficient Population
- Resources on Vaccines for Children (National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants) Resources to support organizations working to vaccinate children in refugee, immigrant, and migrant communities including updated fact sheets in 40+ languages.
- Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Impacts and Vaccinations for Children (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- What Is Vaccine Equity (Save the Children)
- 12 COVID-19 Vaccination Strategies for Your Community
- How to Tailor COVID-19 Vaccine Information to Your Specific Audience
- Strategies for Reaching People with Limited Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
- Resources to Promote the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children & Teens
- COVID-19 Vaccines for Children: Exploring Immunization Strategies for Individuals Under 12 (National Governors Association)
- Community Engagement Resources (Vaccine Equity Cooperative) – Tailored tools and vetted resources to support vaccine decisions in communities with information for parents, youth, and schools.
- Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication
- Understanding Literacy & Numeracy
- Leaders Talk About Health Literacy