COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

COVID-19 Vaccine and Health Equity Implications

Many Head Start communities have been severely impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has created and exacerbated long-standing disparities and inequities for families who have been marginalized for decades. The number of children and families in poverty has grown significantly. There is also a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths among racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native people.

To prevent hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, we need to work together to address social health inequities that increase risk for racial and ethnic minority groups. There are many factors that create challenges to vaccination access and acceptance, and that often affect racial and ethnic minority groups. Some of these social, geographic, political, economic, and environmental factors include:

  • Education, income, and wealth gaps
  • Job access and working conditions
  • Racism and other forms of discrimination
  • Gaps in health care access
  • Transportation and neighborhood conditions
  • Lack of trust as a result of past medical racism and experimentation

Head Start programs serve a diverse group of children, families, and pregnant people. Per the most recent Program Information Report (PIR), in 2019, staff and families in Head Start programs identified themselves as:

  • Hispanic/Latino
    • Families: 37%
    • Staff: 37%
  • Black/African American
    • Families: 30%
    • Staff: 29%
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
    • Families: 4%
    • Staff: 3%

To date, vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic people have lagged behind those of white people. This is largely due to access and logistical barriers, as well as concerns about safety and potential side effects. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect individuals and the people they live and work with from getting COVID-19. Even if broad national vaccination goals are achieved, minority groups may remain at higher risk. It could lead to widening health disparities and limit the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.

Given the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths and lower vaccination rates among racial and ethnic minority groups, it is critical for Head Start programs to continue their efforts in supporting local community vaccination. OHS recognizes these health equity implications and their impact on Head Start and Early Head Start programs. We encourage our Head Start community — families and staff — to #SleeveUp4HeadStart and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Explore CDC information and data on health equity as it pertains to COVID-19.