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.

Illustration of eight children of different races and genders wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker.

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.

How CDC is Helping Get COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters to Children

Illustration of a vaccinated child waving and wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker.
  • 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.

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

Barriers to Equity in Childhood COVID-19 Vaccination

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

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.
Historical Vaccine Disparities and Barriers Among Children

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.

Illustration of a 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.

The Hidden US COVID-19 Pandemic: Orphaned Children

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

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 a vaccinated child waving and wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker.

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

What Communities Can Do to Improve Equity in Childhood Vaccination
Partner with community providers to administer COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to children.
  • 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.
Children’s Vaccine Equity in Action
Spotlight on Community Health Initiatives
Families receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for eligible children at the Kids Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

Families arriving to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for eligible children at the Kids Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. Source: MedStar Health

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.

Virtual Town Halls for Parents banner with an image of a family.

Source: Montgomery County Immunization Coalition, Pennsylvania

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.

MCIC also created an educational flyer on pediatric COVID-19 vaccination available in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Resources to Increase Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine Access

The following resources can help providers and organizations increase children’s COVID-19 vaccine access within their communities.

Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups
People Experiencing Homelessness
Community Engagement
​Health Equity
Vaccine Confidence
Setting Up COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
General Information