Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines for Head Start Professionals

Prepared injectionsPrepared injections of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

HARRISBURG, PA — Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller recently visited the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster with Lancaster’s Community Action Partnership to highlight Pennsylvania’s ongoing work to facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations for Head Start teachers and other early childhood educators through the federal retail pharmacy partnership.

“Pennsylvania’s early childhood education and child care industries have displayed incredible resilience through this difficult year. Many have continued to operate through a changed and difficult environment so children can continue to learn and grow and parents are able to return to work knowing their children are safe and cared for,” said Secretary Miller. “These educators have been on the frontline through all of it, and as we finally have vaccinations that are a critically effective tool in this fight, we are grateful to be able to ease access for this dedicated workforce.”

“We are grateful for the special initiative classification. Our children and families in Early Head Start and Head Start need access to the supportive services our programs offer now more than ever, and this is only possible when we view our early childhood professionals as essential workers, and we provide them with the protections they need to do their jobs,” said Stacy Lewis, Director of Thrive to Five.

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In March, Governor Wolf announced that Pennsylvania would use its initial supply of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine for PreK-12 teachers, other school staff, and child care and other early childhood education (ECE) workers not affiliated with an intermediate unit or school district. This special initiative is allowing Pennsylvania to quickly and efficiently get vaccines into arms of educators and school professionals to help schools seeking to safely resume in-person operations or phase back into full-time in-person instruction.

There are approximately 7,000 child care facilities in Pennsylvania. Since the start of this initiative, approximately 3,600 child care facilities have been connected to a vaccine provider. Currently, the remaining facilities are being matched to vaccine providers to ensure all facilities and their staff have access to the vaccine. These totals include independently-owned family child care homes and group child care settings with a few staff, as well as large child care centers and community-based agencies with larger staff who operate Head Start or Early Intervention 0-3. Vaccinating staff in ECE classrooms and in child care facilities will protect both staff, many of whom have been on the frontline continuing to care for children of essential workers that are not able to , as well as children and families they support.

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Head Start agencies provide state and federally-funded child development and comprehensive assistance connecting to health and social services to families with children ages 3-5, pregnant women, infants and toddlers. Children enrolled in Head Start programs receive nutrition, health, and social supports to promote healthy child development, and parents can also access employment and housing supports. Head Start programs are available in every county across the commonwealth. Families can apply directly through county Head Start providers that can be found online at https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/.

The American Rescue Plan Act also contained significant financial support for ECE and child care providers. Pennsylvania is currently evaluating the enacted law and available funds to determine how they will be distributed, and more information will come as plans are finalized.

For more information on child care providers operating during the COVID-19 public health crisis, visit www.findchildcare.pa.go.

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