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COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: What is the role of the afterschool field?

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COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: What is the role of the afterschool field?

By the end of February, the United States had given at least one vaccination shot to approximately 14 percent of its population. While vaccination rates around the country have varied and each state has implemented its own rollout plan, many states have begun opening appointments to essential workers, including those working in health care, food service, education, and childcare. Afterschool staff have been included in this group in some localities. Out-of-school-time professionals have been on the frontlines serving communities since the pandemic first hit—whether offering childcare services to essential workers, supporting students with virtual learning, or connecting parents with vital resources and information, afterschool and summer learning programs have been invaluable in helping families through the pandemic. In order to continue to providing these services, especially with the growing need to support students facing the long-term academic and social-emotional effects of COVID-19 this spring and summer, afterschool and summer program professionals need to be considered among the essential workers that are eligible to receive the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released two toolkits that can help afterschool and summer programs in educating their employees and communities about the vaccine.

Essential Workers COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit:

This toolkit is most useful in states where all afterschool and summer program staff are considered among the essential workers eligible to receive the vaccine now. The toolkit can help programs connect their staff with the information they need to understand the vaccine and its benefits, answer commonly asked questions, and mitigate concerns about the risks of vaccination. The toolkit includes helpful links for employees to understand how they can get vaccinated, messaging guidelines for employers on how to best communicate vaccine information to their staff, template letters and presentations for sharing this information with employees, and promotional materials, such as stickers, posters, and social media posts.

This is a great place for programs to learn how to get started in connecting with their staff with the information they need to get vaccinated.

Community-Based Organizations COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit:

This toolkit is designed for community-based organizations, like afterschool and summer programs, to share out information about the vaccine in their communities more broadly, using their trusted voices to provide the members of their communities the information they need to better understand the vaccine and its rollout process.

Community-based organizations have the potential to play an important role in conveying this vital information at their local levels and building trust in this prevention tool. Similar to the toolkit for essential workers, this toolkit also includes messaging guidelines and ways to promote information about the vaccine, including draft letters, blog posts, newsletter language, and social media, as well as downloadable posters and stickers.

Both toolkits include downloadable web widgets that programs can put on their websites that automatically connect you with the current eligibility requirements to be vaccinated in your state.

From direct program providers to intermediaries, national organizations to state networks, the afterschool field has the potential to leverage their voices to help answer questions and concerns and dispel common myths, while also recognizing the inequities embedded in the healthcare system and respecting the justified mistrust that many may have a result, to ensure that communities are informed and well positioned as the vaccine becomes more widely available.

For example, the Alaska Afterschool Network has been working to share out information through a number of ways, including their newsletters. They offered the following tips, taken directly from a recent newsletter, regarding ways that organizations can support staff in getting vaccinated:

  • Provide accurate information about the vaccine.
  • When talking to staff about vaccination acknowledge historical trauma and mistrust with the health care system experienced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • Help your staff understand when they are eligible to get vaccinated.
  • Provide staff time to register for vaccines.
  • Provide staff time for staff to receive the vaccine and recover from possible side effects.
  • COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory by the State of Alaska and organizations should strive to create a positive workplace environment that supports your staff on their personal decision on the vaccine.

The newsletter also provided guidance for programs after staff members have been vaccinated. They reminded organizations that programs should continue to follow proper safety protocols, including mask wearing and social distancing, and that staff should continue to follow the COVID mitigation plans implemented by their organizations, as vaccinated individuals can still contract COVID-19.

The out-of-school-time field has been a critical partner in serving communities throughout the pandemic, and serving as an information hub to educate their staff and families about the COVID-19 vaccine is another important way programs can engage in recovery efforts. For more ways you can be engaged, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

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