COVID-19 vaccine administration is underway across the nation. Health care personnel and public health departments are planning, preparing, and implementing detailed and careful vaccination programs. Like other COVID-19 response efforts including testing, flu shot support, providing shelter, and distributing essential resources and vital information, park and recreation professionals can partner with public health and local government officials to explore ways in which their agency can help communities meet vaccination and immunization goals while continuing to prevent spread of the virus. Some of those opportunities include:
Supporting Vaccination Program Communications and Education
Clear and effective communication is essential to build vaccine confidence, dispel misinformation, reach vulnerable and hesitant populations and generally implement a successful COVID-19 vaccination program. As trusted, community-based leaders with a large following and network, park and recreation professionals can support the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccination communications to educate the public and ensure public confidence, relay timely, accessible, and effective health and safety messaging, and track and monitor public receptiveness to communications.
Park and recreation professionals should work directly with local public health and government officials, adhering to all guidance to ensure all messaging is accurate, inclusive, culturally relevant and has been approved for dissemination. It is likely that public health officials will provide you with specific language, templates and tools to support communications.
Agencies can leverage communication channels including relationships with local media affiliates, social media, website presence, text messaging platforms, email and others. Additionally, agencies can consider training and deploying staff/park ambassadors or working directly with local, community-led organizations to distribute educational materials, ensuring that information is reaching highly vulnerable communities. If engaging in direct conversations with community members, agencies should train staff on crisis and emergency risk communication strategies.
Agencies should also provide education and timely information to staff regarding the vaccine.
Refer to CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations for more information on communications.
Leveraging Facilities and Equipment to Support Satellite Vaccine Clinics
Some agencies may have the ability to leverage facilities or public spaces to help scale vaccination efforts by establishing satellite vaccine clinics. Agencies should collaborate with public health, local government and health care partners to explore off-site locations and equipment needs. This may include repurposing physical facilities like recreation centers, senior centers, arenas and outdoor drive-thru sites, or leveraging equipment including vehicles or freezers to support vaccination of a broader audience more rapidly.
There are several factors and logistics to consider in converting off-site locations into clinics including vaccination storage and handling, necessary supplies and personal protective equipment, appropriate signage and environmental controls, documentation, and more. While park and recreation professionals will not play a role in administering the vaccine (only administered by trained health care personnel), they may be needed to support site preparation, coordination, logistics planning, facility management and other efforts. For more information on offsite vaccine locations, refer to CDC’s Guidance for Planning Vaccination Clinics Health at Satellite, Temporary or Off-Site Locations.
Addressing Transportation Challenges
One of the biggest barriers to accessing health and wellness services is often transportation. This is particularly true in rural and disinvested communities and among older adult populations. With physical distancing protocols in place, community members in urban areas and metro centers may also be hesitant to take public transportation. Agencies can leverage municipal vehicles, coordinate volunteer opportunities, or build new partnerships with other municipal departments or the private sector to develop solutions to transportation challenges and ensure all community members can access the vaccine. As transportation programs are developed, ensure that all COVID-19 safety precautions are followed.
Providing Childcare Services
Limited options for affordable childcare has been an ongoing challenge for many families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In many communities, park and recreation professionals have stepped in to provide needed childcare services for essential personnel and the general public. Parents and caregivers who have young children they care for may face additional barriers in accessing the vaccine, especially if vaccine sites have protocols in place limiting site access. Park and recreation professionals can continue to support childcare services at vaccine sites or nearby locations to ensure caregivers have access to the vaccine. Childcare sites should follow all CDC and local public health guidance.
Advocating for Frontline Staff
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, park and recreation professionals have been on the frontlines. Most notably, agencies have documented exposures and infections among staff working directly with community members in childcare and summer camp settings. Staff who are working in settings where they are exposed to people outside of their household are at a greater risk of becoming infected with the virus. As states are further fleshing out their plans for subsequent vaccination eligibility, park and recreation leaders can advocate for their frontline staff to be prioritized in receiving the vaccine.
It is important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change rapidly, requiring different strategies to prevent the spread, including immunization. Refer to local public health and government officials or CDC for the latest guidance and information regarding the vaccine.