COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids Under 5: Philanthropy’s Role

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With the welcome news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine, roughly 20 million children in the United States under 5 years are newly eligible for vaccination.

Making sure young kids get vaccinated will face challenges we’re already seeing – including combatting misinformation, vaccine hesitation among adults that will spill over into not vaccinating their children, and the need for trusted messengers to help families navigate information and access. New challenges will also be faced, related to differences in dosage and availability of vaccines and providers to administer vaccines to young kids, especially in rural areas. This Kaiser Family Foundation brief, The Last Major Phase of the COVID-19 Vaccination Roll-out: Children Under 5, discusses characteristics of the child population under 5 years old, and how vaccine roll out will be similar to or different from the rollout of vaccines for kids ages 5-11.

Another challenge in this phase of vaccine rollout is diminishing public resources.  While first phases of vaccine were rolled out with substantial government funding, this next phase will require continued and new public/private partnerships to ensure kids get vaccinated.


Philanthropy can play a key role in supporting equitable implementation of services for young kids and their families – harnessing philanthropy’s superpowers of pivoting quickly, elevating innovation,¬† and convening and connecting key partners.

ECFC hosted a discussion on the roles philanthropy can play in promoting and supporting COVID-19 vaccinations for young kids, harnessing philanthropy’s superpowers of convening and connecting, and lifting up innovation.¬† We were joined by leaders from the Vaccine Equity Cooperative, which hosts a subgroup focused on vaccines for children, and ECFC members and colleagues working on/supporting vaccine outreach for kids, including discussants from:¬†¬† The David & Lucille Packard Foundation; W.K. Kellogg Foundation; CDC Foundation; and the White House COVID-19 Response Team. (Watch the recording).

Below are some examples emerging emerging of how philanthropy can play a role in vaccine outreach and rollout for kids and families to help EC funders think about roles they can play in their own communities.

Center Equity

Lift Up Equitable Strategies:
Philanthropy can help document equitable strategies in communities such as Strategies for States to Drive Equitable Vaccine Distribution and Administration, published by State Health and Values Strategies, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Every Child Thrives, powered by W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), is also sharing real-life experiences and knowledge of communities mobilizing. See examples of how local health leaders in Detroit, MI, Biloxi, MS and in Native communities of New Mexico were creative in removing barriers, building trust to address misinformation and helping people navigate the systems where they live in their languages, to make vaccines accessible and promote health equity in their communities.   Reflecting on the past to transform the future: Lessons learned from grantmaking in promoting health equity and responding to crisis, which also highlights WKKF’s longtime work with communities, experiences in emergency grantmaking and partnership with researchers and advocates, offers key lessons to address health and social inequities.

Support Innovative Collaborations: Together Toward Health‚ÄĒa collaboration between the State of California,¬†Public Health Institute, and a group of philanthropic funders led by¬†The California Endowment is building essential bridges between local health departments and community leaders to successfully meet the needs of residents, workers and families through every step of the pandemic.¬† Such partnerships can also support innovative vaccine delivery. ¬†For example, one mobile vaccination site in Coachella Valley, California‚ÄĒled by the immigrant-support organization¬†TODEC and several local agencies, and in partnership with Riverside County and Together Toward Health‚ÄĒvaccinated 250 agricultural workers in a single day.

Related resources for a deeper look at how philanthropy can support equity:

Support Trusted Messengers

Pediatricians & Family Providers
: For kids under 5, pediatricians will be more important than ever for getting vaccines,  they are already highly trusted source of information for parents about COVID-19 for children, and pediatricians are often the ones who vaccinate children, many through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

  • Pediatric Vaccine Success Stories from the Field, a webinar hosted by the National Community Action Partnership, National Head Start Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Administration for Children and Families provide examples of successful pediatric partnerships for providing vaccines.
  • William Penn Foundation provided funding to The¬†Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium of the non-profit organization It Takes Philly, Inc. to provide COVID-19 testing for early learning program staff in high risk communities of color in Philadelphia to minimize spread of COVID-19.¬† Now, the Consortium is also focusing on vaccines for young kids, hosting a 2 day pediatric vaccine clinic for parents in June (with a follow-up pre-scheduled in January 2023).
  • The David and Lucille Packard Foundation’s support for the American Academy of Pediatrics build their capacity to respond and create resources for pediatricians to help promote and provide vaccinations for young kids (see related resources below).
  • Pediatrics Supporting Parents, a funders collaborative initiative focused pediatricians and parents partnering to promote and support young children‚Äôs¬†healthy social and emotional development¬†and¬†nurturing parent-child relationships.

Other family-facing providers:¬†As pediatric/child well visits dropped during the pandemic, other family and kid serving providers will also be key to ensuring families have a trusted place and messenger for COVID-19 vaccine information, access to vaccines, and a whole family approach to making sure parents and their kids are vaccinated. In some areas, community clinics‚ÄĒsuch as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health clinics, and community health centers,¬† School Located Vaccine Clinics, and hospital associations are serving as an informational resource for families and help find or co-host community-based vaccination sites.¬† Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, family resource centers and diaper banks¬† are also examples of family-facing community based service with direct and trusted lines to parents.

Shift Power to Community Based Partners

Community based partners already have deep knowledge of their community needs.  Supporting their capacity to respond and pivot to community needs has been essential throughout the pandemic, and will continue to be in this next phase to get young kids vaccinated.

Build Local Public Health Capacity

Local and state health departments are key partners for vaccinating young children, they are already deeply engaged in community vaccine outreach, and they know their community well (who is being left out, what language and culture needs there are).

Be a Cultural Broker in Your Community

Language and cultural differences will continue to be a challenge in reaching families about the vaccination for young kids.¬† CDC and other government agencies cannot translate resources into every needed language. ¬†We‚Äôll need community based responses drawing on local context to help determine what kinds of translation families might need.¬† Local and state health departments are key partners in adapting and translating COVID-19 materials and information for the populations they serve.¬† For example: the District of Columbia has translated their COVID-19 materials into 6 languages; and the Santa Barbara Public Health Department coordinated a collaborative approach with community partners to get Covid-19 information to underserved populations, including rural farmworkers and people of color.¬†¬†Philanthropy can support local efforts to adapt outreach to local culture and language needs ‚Äď by finding and connecting expertise, connecting local partners to national resources, and funding trusted messengers to adapt and deliver messaging.¬†¬†Philanthropy can also provide direct support to bill in gaps that public entities can‚Äôt, such as providing support for translation services and community engagement to adapt COVID-19 resources to local cultural and language.

Be Flexible

Throughout the pandemic, flexibility has been key to ensuring that community based partners, providers, and family facing agencies and organizations have the capacity and ability to pivot to do what is needed most, when it’s needed most, to get kids and families vaccinated.¬† ¬†During the early days of the pandemic, many grantmakers allowed flexibility in grants to their community based grantee partners to allow them to respond to communities needs, as and when, they needed.¬† This next phase of the pandemic will require the same flexibility, to give community grantees the ability to pivot and use their funding to provide outreach and coordination with and for families around the vaccine for kids under 5.


Interested in connecting with ECFC or other funders around how philanthropy can support this new phase of vaccine roll-out for kids under 5? Get in touch with ECFC.  Connect with these resources to inform your own strategies:


  • The Vaccine Equity Cooperative’s Advancing Children’s Health: Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination and Mitigation Measures, outlines detailed recommendations to protect children under age 12 and their families and communities, and will set the stage for a second set of recommendations on vaccinations for kids under 5 (available soon).¬† Key recommendations include:¬†Centering on racial health equity;¬†Prioritizing outreach in the context of whole families and communities;¬†Building on existing proven infrastructure with a ‚Äúno wrong door approach‚ÄĚ;¬†Engaging all sectors across health policy, communities, schools and private sector.
  • The White House Operational Plan for COVID-‚Ā†19 Vaccinations for Children Under 5¬† addresses many strategies and opportunities ripe for philanthropic partnership, including: Leveraging federal programs to reach parents and families with information and advance equity (such as WIC, MIECHB, HUD, Medicaid and the Children‚Äôs Health Insurance Program); Engaging community based venues and network connecting with families and kids (such as museums, libraries, PTA‚Äôs, diaper banks); and Partnering with providers (pediatricians, clinics).

Outreach Campaigns & Adaptable Resources

For Parents and Caregivers

Photo credit: Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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