Innovative Strategies for Leveraging Schools as COVID-19 Vaccination Sites

Innovative Strategies for Leveraging Schools as COVID-19 Vaccination Sites Cover

Policy Brief

Innovative Strategies for Leveraging Schools as COVID-19 Vaccination Sites

Published date

August 31, 2021


In May 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12-17. To date, adolescents’ vaccination rates have continued to lag those of adults, with 33.2 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds and 43.8 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds fully vaccinated as of August 21, 2021. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not publicly report vaccination data on race and ethnicity by age group, Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of publicly reported state COVID-19 vaccination data suggests that racial and ethnic disparities in adolescent vaccination rates mirror those observed in the broader population.

As schools reopen for in-person instruction in the fall semester, school-located vaccination (SLV) — along with other mitigation strategies like testing, masking, and social distancing — is an effective tool for safely reopening schools and protecting students and their families against outbreaks of COVID-19. Schools provide a convenient vaccination location for both students and family members who may not otherwise have easy access to vaccination services. Superintendents, principals, teachers, school nurses, school-based health centers (SBHCs), and other educational leaders also can be trusted sources of information on vaccines for parents and students. Beyond COVID-19, SLV can provide opportunities to offer influenza vaccinations ahead of the flu season and support “catch up” for routine vaccinations that have lagged during the pandemic.


Many school leaders hosted SLV clinics to vaccinate staff, students, and families in the spring and summer of 2021. Identifying lessons learned, strategies for addressing common challenges, and innovative models from these efforts can help additional educational leaders improve immunization rates among students in their communities and prepare for emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines in children under age 12.

To support leaders in developing effective, school-located COVID-19 vaccination strategies, the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, in collaboration with the COVID Collaborative and the Council of the Great City Schools, National Rural Education Association, Rural Schools Collaborative, and AASA: The School Superintendents Association, has developed this issue brief, featuring case examples of innovative district-level approaches for engaging families and increasing access to COVID-19 vaccines. This issue brief was informed by interviews with educational organizations and school district leaders across the country, including school officials in Detroit, Michigan; Orange County, Florida; Los Angeles, California; and Shullsburg, Wisconsin; and identifies lessons
learned, key considerations, and resources that can support school leaders in implementing SLV clinics.

Duke-Margolis Affiliated Authors

Katie Huber

Katie Huber, MPH

Senior Policy Analyst

Mark McClellan

Mark McClellan, MD, PhD

Director of Margolis Center
Robert J. Margolis, MD, Professor of Business, Medicine and Policy
Margolis Executive Core Faculty