Vax To School: How You Can Help Schools Get Vaccinated (Made to Save resource)

A guide for healthcare professionals, trusted messengers, community members and organizations with resources to support school based immunization

As the new school year begins amid rapid spread of the new Delta variant, school-centered COVID-19 vaccination efforts are urgently needed to keep schools open and protect the health of the entire community.  We need to quickly increase vaccination rates among all eligible members of each school community — students age 12 and up, families, and staff. In many communities, children have fallen behind on routine childhood immunizations too. Different organizations and individuals have important roles to play in this effort, whether you are a healthcare professional, hospital, community-based organization, or member of the school community. Schools and local health departments are under tremendous strain as we start another pandemic school year. Your thoughtful support can be invaluable to keeping kids and the community safe.

The first step is to ask what is needed locally.  Tailoring efforts to school needs will be the most effective way to help.  Check with local schools and the local health department to help understand what they need. The school nurse or school-based health clinic, if the school has either one, is a good place to start.  

Schools’ vaccination needs may include:

  • Outreach and education by trusted messengers among staff, parents, students, or school leadership 
  • Pop up vaccine clinic set up and staffing
  • Other needs like vaccine incentives or off-campus space for vaccine clinics.

Ideally, outreach and education can go hand in hand with an on-site vaccination clinic to increase access and convenience of getting shots. 

Tips and Resources for Trusted Messengers to Conduct Outreach and Education

Mobilize those who are trusted by people in the school community.  This may be local health professionals, the local public health department, community leaders, faith leaders, business leaders, and vaccinated parents, students, and school staff.  Organize a meeting to bring them together to work together.  

Provide vaccine information sessions.  Host Q&A sessions featuring local health professionals and trusted leaders.  Consider having these as a part of existing events like PTA meetings, Back to School night, or a health class.

Find a local health professional to help.

Conduct one-on-one outreach to meet people where they are. Use directories or informal networks to do individual outreach by phone, text, or in-person.  Focus on listening to understand people’s questions, concerns, and barriers.  Show empathy and connect on shared values. Help them identify their own reasons for getting vaccinated.  

Distribute accessible materials that are culturally-appropriate, translated, or in a format that is easiest for people to consume.  Here are some resources:

Encourage schools to include vaccination information in all official school communications. Include vaccination information including where to access information and vaccines in every communication to parents and staff, posters on campus, and at in-person events.  In addition to the resources above, you can also share:

Use social media and media. Students are often best equipped to understand how to reach their fellow students through social media or other means.  Work with students to spread the word of your organizing efforts on Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram — or whatever platform students share as the most important to reach their peers. Local op-eds or letters to the editor from trusted messengers in the school community can also help spread the message that vaccinations are important for students.

MakeSpace (templates and activities to customize graphics for your community, by NRC-RIM and IDEO.org)

Consider surveying the community so you can proactively address common concerns, including myths and access barriers.  People may not be aware of where they can get a vaccine or know that it is free to everyone. Some communities may not respond well to government messengers but other community leaders may resonate more strongly.

Take a look at the tipsheet by the de Beaumont Foundation and Made to Save on effective ways to talk about the vaccines with parents and young people. Download the tip sheet. 

How to Help with Setting Up or Staffing a School-Based Vaccine Clinic

Combining outreach and education efforts with a school-based vaccine clinic can provide community members with important information about the vaccine and a trusted place to get their shot. Vaccine providers for a school-based pop up clinic could include the local health department, federally-qualified community health center, children’s hospital, and/or other local vaccine providers.  They may happen during the school day (ideally), as a part of another planned event (Back to School night, Fall festival, sports event), or as a standalone event. 

Share Your Learnings and Join the Made to Save Coalition

Made to Save is a national coalition of hundreds of national and local organizations working together to build trust in the COVID-19 vaccines and increase access for communities of color whose health inequities have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  Please join us and share what you’re doing and learning!

  • Sign Up to be a Made to Save partner and connect with our broader coalition to share learnings and resources in this important work.
  • Share your feedback on how you’ve used this guide, what can be improved, and your success stories by emailing [email protected].  
  • Please also tag us on social media as you share your stories, photos, and videos, so we can amplify your work: @ItsMadeToSave on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter.

The information on this website has been aggregated from the CDC and other trusted medical resources and is not medical advice. If you have additional questions we encourage you to speak to a medical provider. This information is accurate as of August 11, 2021. Learn more about Made to Save.