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Access to COVID-19 vaccines for out-of-school time program staff

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Access to COVID-19 vaccines for out-of-school time program staff

Update: January 5, 2021:

As an update to the request detailed in the blog below regarding out-of-school time workers being classified as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” for the purposes of COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, a change was made by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at their December 20 meeting. The recent summary of the meeting published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)  clarified the inclusion of "child care workers" as included in the Phase 1B vaccination program. As the determination of which groups of individuals to prioritize for vaccinations is ultimately a state level decision, communications with State vaccination panels can now refer to the inclusion of child care workers in Phase 1B Frontline Essential Workers per the CDC ACIP. This determination does place more of the burden of interpreting what is meant by “child care workers” on individual states. Child Care Aware of America has posted a helpful table tracking individual state plans that include child care.

The complete text from the MMWR reads as follows:

ACIP used CISA guidance to define frontline essential workers as the subset of essential workers likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers. ACIP has classified the following non–health care essential workers as frontline workers: first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.

In the DHS CISA document on the classification of Essential Workers, under the heading of OTHER COMMUNITY- OR GOVERNMENT-BASED OPERATIONS AND ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS, the following statement is included: “Workers providing dependent care services, including childcare, eldercare, and other service providers necessary to maintain a comprehensive, supportive environment for individuals and caregivers needing these services.”


On Thursday, December 10, the Afterschool Alliance joined the American Camp Association (ACA) along with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), JCC Association of North America, the YMCA of the USA, and more than 40 other organizations, sent a letter to CDC making a strong case to have out-of-school time workers supporting the education of our children and adult learners in a myriad of settings classified as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” and made eligible for vaccinations coincident with other workers in the Education sector as defined the Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity, and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA.)

The letter to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is charged with advising the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the allocation and distribution of immunizing agents, represented that this classification is in strong accord with the criteria set forth in the guidance provided by CISA. On Saturday, December 12, 2020, Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO of ACA, delivered comments to the CDC ACIP committee reflecting the position of ACA and the other 47 organizations aligned for ensuring vaccines for OST staff along with the Education sector (his comments begin at 3:31:22). Representatives from the BGCA also spoke to the ACIP making the case at a subsequent meeting on December 20, 2020.

At the meeting on December 20 members of the ACIP finalized their recommendations for vaccine distribution in phases 1b and 1c. Essential workers supporting the Education sector were included in phase 1b. While OST workers were not called out specifically, “daycare” workers were mentioned. Advocates are currently working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to clarify the meaning of that term. Next steps include an outreach initiative to state governors and departments of health to convey how OST staff fully fall within the definition of the Education sector as determined by CISA. Ultimately, state governors and their designees will determine the prioritization of the vaccine distribution in their state.

CISA provides guidance on the qualification of essential workers that require specialized risk management strategies for safe workplaces and a structure for allocation of resources in the document titled, Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response (Vers. 4.0, August 18, 2020). The Education sector heading includes the following areas:

  • Workers who support the education of pre-school, K-12 students, including professors, teachers, teacher aides, special education and special needs teachers, ESOL teachers, paraeducators, apprenticeship supervisors, and specialists
  • Workers who provide services necessary to support educators and students
  • Workers who support the transportation and operational needs of schools
  • Workers who support the administration of school systems
  • Educators and operational staff facilitating and supporting distance learning

These same categories apply to the majority of the job descriptions for staff members in out of school time programs like organized camps, afterschool programs, and community center recreation areas, as many facilities are partnering with schools to provide in-person instruction and distance learning. This workforce has enabled healthcare and frontline workers to attend to their essential duties and will continue to do so through the summer season.

Program staff in OST educational and recreational settings such as afterschool programs, camps, and community centers are critical for continued support to serve the nation’s healthcare, first responders, frontline, and essential workers, as well as in assisting in the continued economic recovery of our country. Parents cannot return to work without a functioning OST sector. In addition, frontline childcare staff are disproportionately women and women of color. Given that Latino, American Indian, and Black communities are more than 3.5 times more likely to suffer severe cases of COVID-19 and death, frontline childcare workers should be vaccinated early on. Inclusion of these workers within the vaccination allocation and distribution along with those in the Education sector is paramount for safeguarding public health and economic recovery.

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