COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Vaccination for Head Start Families

Consistent, honest, and respectful communication with families is a cornerstone of Head Start family engagement. Your engagement strategies and current channels of communication with families provide excellent avenues to talk about vaccination. Programs may also consider new ideas for targeted promotions that support Head Start families in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccination for Children Ages 5–11

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends children ages 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine.  Families who choose vaccination for themselves and their children are critical partners in protecting their communities, including the majority of our Head Start children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Head Start staff are encouraged to engage families in supportive and informative conversations about the safety and benefits of vaccinating children ages 5 to 11.

Rely on your family engagement strategies to address vaccination of Head Start children as they turn 5, as well as older siblings. Many families are trying to decide what is right for them. Encourage anyone seeking additional information talk to their child’s health care provider to get the facts.

Find a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11 years at https://www.vaccines.gov/.

About the Vaccine

On Oct. 29, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include children 5 through 11 years of age. The authorization was based on the FDA’s thorough and transparent evaluation of the data that included input from independent advisory committee experts who overwhelmingly voted in favor of making the vaccine available to children in this age group.

Vaccination was nearly 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm. 

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone — and will continue to undergo — the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Vaccinating children will help protect them from getting COVID-19 and reduce their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications.

Federal Resources

Family and Community COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is encouraging Head Start programs to work within their communities to get people vaccinated. Vaccination is the safest way to protect individuals and the people they live and work with from getting COVID-19. It's also an important part of moving Head Start Forward and returning to safe, comprehensive in-person services.

Explore examples of vaccine outreach and support activities Head Start programs can consider below.

Become a vaccination site for families. Some programs have opened their doors to become vaccination sites. They have worked with their local health departments, pharmacies, and health centers to administer the vaccine. Follow this link to explore vaccine success stories from the field.

Consider strategies to support parents and caregivers who suffer temporary side effects from the vaccines. Strategies and supports may include:

  • Community partners providing meals to the family
  • Scheduling vaccination drives early in the week so children are in Head Start care while the family member recovers from any side effects
  • Offering other resources and materials available to encourage vaccination

Adapt and deliver COVID-19 vaccine messages from the CDC that will resonate in your program. You know what works best for your families. Consider:

Expand upon or create new vaccination communication channels with families. Create spaces and places for families to ask questions about COVID-19 vaccination. Consider:

  • Developing anonymous surveys to better understand the number of people who have been, are planning to be, are undecided about, or are choosing not to be vaccinated. One program learned that families were concerned about vaccine safety and how the vaccines were developed. They used that information to focus their strategy on developing key messages and identifying reliable members of the community to talk about vaccine safety with families and staff.
  • Setting up virtual town hall-style meetings to share information and hear from families. In one program, a director discovered the difficulties their families were having signing up for the vaccine during a town hall meeting. As a result of that meeting, they put together a team that is responsible for signing families up and scheduling their appointments.

Reach out to your local health departments and clinics. Head Start programs can share articles, blog posts, and social media messages from community health partners as an effective way to inform families. Include updates on local COVID-19 vaccination efforts during virtual town hall meetings, Policy Council and parent meetings, and through newsletters, social media, or email to families.

Join MyPeers to connect and engage with colleagues in the early childhood community. Work together to come up with and share strategies to engage families. Your success story may serve as a template to help others!