How Schools and Early Care and Education (ECE) Programs Can Support COVID-19 Vaccination
Information for ECE program and school administrators, providers, teachers, and staff
Early care and education (ECE) programs and schools are consistently a large part of the daily life for many American children and families and uniquely positioned to link to, or even help deliver COVID-19 vaccines for all those who are eligible. ECE providers and teachers can share information with families and teach children about the importance of vaccines in keeping children healthy.
The list below outlines action steps ECE programs and school leaders can take to support COVID-19 vaccine uptake and improve health literacy among staff, students, and families in their community. Which actions ECE programs and schools decide to take will depend on state and local policies, health service infrastructure, and available resources.
Together, we can help our country reach COVID-19 vaccination goals and protect our children.
- 1. Promote vaccine confidence among children, teens, parents, and guardians.
- 2. Arm early childhood professionals, teachers, administrators, and other staff with resources for answering general COVID-19 vaccination questions.
- 3. Partner with others doing COVID-19 vaccine-related activities in your community.
- 4. Encourage families to have their child receive the COVID-19 vaccine and get caught up on well-child visits along with routine vaccinations.
- 5. Consider partnering with COVID-19 vaccine providers to offer vaccination to children in your program or school.
- 6. Incorporate COVID-19 education into your lessons.
“Vaccine confidence” is the trust that people have in recommended vaccines. Right now, families in your community may be wading through a lot of information—and misinformation—to make decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations. As a trusted source of care and information for your families, you can help.
- Be prepared to address questions and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine with your children or teens, and their families, by developing or sharing materials from credible sources. The CDC has developed resources to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence; resources to promote the COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens, and a conversation guide to help providers answer frequently asked questions.
- For children, teens, or adults who worry about vaccination or have a fear of needles, share tips for making shots less stressful and managing fears of needles.
- Include ways that families can access information about vaccines, as further encouragement to vaccinate their children. Share information on COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens and answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines with families and caregivers who would like more information on COVID-19 vaccination.
- Share materials and resources on COVID-19 vaccination of children with parents and caregivers through your emails, newsletters, social media accounts, and websites.
- Encourage early childhood professionals, teachers, and staff to share their COVID-19 vaccination stories on social media and/or through school. Seeing trusted adults get the COVID-19 vaccine can spur discussion and put minds at ease about vaccination.
- Invite children and teens to wear their COVID-19 vaccination stickers to school.
- Recruit a set of early childhood professionals or teachers to host an ECE or school-wide art or writing contest about COVID-19.
- Display age-appropriate COVID-19 vaccine educational posters around the facility and in classrooms.
2. Arm early childhood professionals, teachers, administrators, and other staff with resources for answering general COVID-19 vaccination questions.
ECE programs and schools can promote vaccinations among staff and families by providing information about COVID-19 vaccination, encouraging vaccine trust and confidence, and looking for ways that make getting vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible for staff and families.
It is important for all staff to know what role they can play in COVID-19 vaccine-related communication, education, and activities.
- Use internal workshops, staff meetings, and newsletters to promote staff involvement in COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
- Refer staff to resources to promote the COVID-19 vaccine for children & teens – including graphics for social media, posters, and printable fact sheets in 9 languages – as well as other CDC resources for teachers and staff. Encourage staff to take an active role in sharing these resources through a variety of ways, including:
- ECE providers, teachers, and administrators can send emails to parents and guardians linking to information on the COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens and answers to frequently asked questions.
- ECE programs and schools can offer printouts or pamphlets available at key locations throughout the facility. If you have a healthcare provider, such as a nurse, or a healthcare consultant on site, ensure children and families know they are available to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Programs and staff can share information with parents and guardians on tips for making shots less stressful and managing fears of needles.
Establishing partnerships can be helpful for many COVID-19 vaccine-related activities. Partners may include local health departments, municipal governments, and local healthcare providers, as well as local businesses, churches, sports teams, community-based organizations, unions, and media companies.
Many ECE programs and schools already assist families in seeking other needed childhood vaccines. If you are not already working with your local health department, federally qualified health centers, pediatric or family medicine practices, children’s hospital, pharmacists or other medical, health, or academic institutions, consider reaching out to partner on COVID-19 vaccination activities.
- Host informational sessions about vaccine safety and importance.
- Invite a health expert, including local pediatricians or family medicine doctors, who might have children in your program or school, to inform your ECE preparedness plan, share information with your ECE administration, or to sit on your community advisory board to inform members on health issues such as COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccination.
- Connect families to local experts who can answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines. For example, host a virtual town hall where families can ask local pediatricians or other vaccine providers questions.
- Inform families through your communication channels about the dates and locations of COVID-19 vaccination events or on-going clinics. Send out electronic sign-up links for parents or guardians to register their child and/or themselves for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
- Work with local health departments to help educate teachers, ECE professionals, coaches, and staff on how to dispel COVID-19 vaccine myths and misinformation.
- If feasible, find nursing assistance to support schools and ECE programs with limited access to nurses or health professional.
Vaccine Success Stories from the Field
Explore some of the different ways ECE programs are working to ensure positive vaccine experiences. Some programs have become vaccination sites or created partnerships with local pharmacies and health departments to successfully improve their staff’s access to the vaccine.
4. Encourage families to have their child receive the COVID-19 vaccine and get caught up on well-child visits along with routine vaccinations.
Many families have been doing their part by staying at home as much as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but as a result, many children and adolescents have missed annual wellness visits, check-ups, and routine childhood vaccinations.
CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend every child continues to receive recommended vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pediatric providers are particularly important for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to young children. Older children and teens may receive the COVID-19 vaccines in pharmacies and larger vaccine sites such as drive-through vaccination clinics. However, younger children, particularly infants and toddlers, may need to get their vaccine from someone who is trained to give it to young children and will benefit from receiving their COVID-19 vaccine in their regular pediatric office or family medicine doctor’s clinic. Children and families benefit from having a pediatrician or family medicine doctor who can provide consistent, ongoing, and comprehensive care. Getting younger children vaccinated by their regular healthcare provider also gives them the opportunity to receive routine health care, such as well child visits, and other childhood vaccinations.
Schools and ECE programs can do their part in promoting well child visits as an opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and address any other special health and development needs — especially any that arose during the pandemic, such as behavior and mental health concerns. Ask ECE program and school staff to stress the importance of children and students getting caught up on well-child visits and routine vaccinations they might have missed during the pandemic. ECE programs and schools can assist families by encouraging them to connect with their regular healthcare provider. See “Resources to Encourage Routine Childhood Vaccinations“ for more information.
- Tracking growth and developmental milestones.
- Discussing concerns about children’s health and wellness.
- Getting recommended vaccinations to prevent illnesses like measles and whooping cough (pertussis) and other serious diseases.
5. Consider partnering with COVID-19 vaccine providers to offer vaccination to children in your program or school.
Vaccination clinics can be held at the ECE or school facility or at the vaccine provider’s facility, such as a local pediatric clinic. ECE programs and schools can provide a familiar and convenient location for eligible children, students, and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while also potentially serving other eligible groups in the surrounding community, including family members of children and teens. These clinics can be one-time or recurring events to assist families particularly where access to vaccines may be limited, to make it easier for families to have their child vaccinated, and to quickly increase the number of children protected by vaccines in your ECE program or school.
- If you choose to run a school-located vaccination (SLV) or ECE program clinic, ask nurses on site to help communicate about and track consent forms.
- If your program or school serves infants and toddlers, ask the vaccine providers about their ability to serve children at younger ages.
- If you are planning an on-site clinic, consider scheduling it at a time when parents or guardians can easily be present, such as at the end of the day when they are picking their children up.
- ECE programs and schools with nurses’ stations may offer vaccination throughout the school day. With the right planning and communication, on-site clinics can also be run during summer months – even when schools or programs are closed or as part of a broader back-to-school efforts.
- Program and school staff can take an active role in promoting on-site vaccination clinics by sending emails to families with facts about the COVID-19 vaccine and the clinic date and time. For sample content for letters, emails, and newsletters, check out Customizable Content for School and Childcare-Located Vaccination Clinics.
- On-site clinics may also offer routine childhood vaccinations for children and students who have fallen behind on routine vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- “Considerations for Planning School and Childcare-Located Vaccination Clinics” provides more information and resources such as sample letters to parents or guardians, tips for working with vaccine providers, and other considerations.
- Look for information, for example from your local health department or your local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency, regarding who to partner with for vaccination clinics. ECE programs and schools can consider partnering with providers that other programs have used in their area for flu vaccination clinics or COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
- Programs can also visit vaccines.gov to identify vaccine providers near them.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to hold 250 SLV clinics across the district using their school-based health centers or mobile clinics to reach COVID-19 vaccine eligible middle and high school students before the summer of 2021. Visit the LAUSD website for an example of how to communicate with families..
East Hartford High School in Connecticut allowed COVID-19 vaccine eligible students a “skip day” to miss class and be vaccinated at a large clinic run by a community health center on two runways of the local airport. By partnering with the Capital Region Educational Council (CREC), the school was able to bus more than 1,000 students—with permission from their parents or guardians—to be vaccinated. Health experts from the community health center also answered COVID-19 vaccination questions from families in a virtual town hall.
Teaching children and teens is what ECE programs and schools do best. Discussions and lessons about COVID-19 and vaccination can be incorporated in many different subjects in age appropriate, meaningful ways.
Look for ways to include content related to COVID-19 and vaccine science into your lessons, where appropriate.
- Discuss basic facts with young children and their families about bacteria and viruses and how to reduce the risk of spreading germs and getting infections.
- Combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation with information that improves vaccine confidence.
- Provide families and students with a history of pandemics and their cultural impacts.
- For grades 9-12: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences COVID-19 Pandemic Vulnerability Index Lesson Plans guide students as they explore various risk factors involved in COVID-19 spread and its resulting mortality, including biological, socio-economic, and environmental factors.
- For grades 9-12: PBS News Hour’s “Invent ways to help get your community vaccinated” lesson plan equips high school students with knowledge of how the COVID-19 vaccine works and why it is important. Students can research challenges to vaccine distribution in their own communities and invent ways to get vaccines to community members who may face obstacles to vaccination.
- For grades 6-12: PBS News Hour’s “What is the difference between mis- and disinformation? lesson plan helps students create connections between their own lives and how misinformation spreads and evaluate sources of information for the main message —and how that message is supported.
- For grades 4-8: Health World Education’s free ”Germs & Your Health” lesson plan shows students how handwashing, getting nutritious foods, and getting enough exercise and sleep can help the human body fight illness. (Also available in Spanish).
Regularly communicate with your staff, children, students, and families with up-to-date science about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
For up-to-date information on how to protect the health of everyone in your program or school, check out:
- Resources to Promote the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children & Teens
- COVID-19 Vaccines for Teachers, School Staff, and Childcare Workers
- COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Safe Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic (HealthyChildren.org)
- The Role of Schools in Strengthening Delivery of New Adolescent Vaccinations (Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Teaching About Vaccines (Educators for Social Change)