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Head Start Vaccine and Testing Announcement

HHS announced that it intends to remove the regulatory requirement for vaccines in Head Start programs for Head Start staff, contractors, and volunteers, as well as the weekly testing requirement for individuals granted an exemption from the vaccine requirement. The interim final rule’s vaccine and testing requirements are not currently in effect as the result of a recent district court decision.

On November 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued an interim final rule requiring federally funded Head Start programs to ensure that their staff, contractors, and volunteers were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (i.e., obtain the primary vaccination series), which was a critical step to protect the children and families served. On April 10, 2023, the President signed legislation that ended the COVID-19 national emergency. On May 11, 2023, the COVID-19 public health emergency will expire. 

On January 6, 2023, ACF issued a final rule requiring Head Start grant recipients to have an evidence-based COVID–19 mitigation policy, which considers multiple mitigation strategies such as access to vaccination, masking, ventilation, and testing. Although ACF will remove the vaccine and testing requirements, ACF strongly recommends that Head Start programs use vaccines and tests as part of their mitigation policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood of mortality or morbidity from infection. Head Start programs may choose to include their own requirements to support vaccination efforts, including for example, requiring staff remain up to date on COVID–19 boosters, sharing information on COVID–19 vaccination with staff and families, and/or partnering with local agencies to increase vaccination access.

For more information on developing a COVID-19 mitigation strategy, see the recent Program Instruction with guidance for Head Start grant recipients.