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Rising Demand For Child Care Rests On Providers Getting Vaccinated. How's That Going?

Edwina Shivers is wearing a green t-shirt and a bright orange sweater as she sits at a plastic foldable table. She's listening to David Nguyen in a black t-shirt and glasses as he explains something to her. He's also wearing medical gloves.
Child care site supervisor Edwina Shivers was administered the Pfizer vaccine by David Nguyen at a pop-up vaccination clinic at Macedonia Baptist Church in South L.A. | Stefanie Ritoper/ LAist
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The following article was originally republished April 1, 2021 through a collaboration with KPCC and LAist.

Story by Mariana Dale

Edwina Shivers, a supervisor at a child care center, tried unsuccessfully for two weeks to make a vaccine appointment until her employer pointed her to a pop-up vaccination clinic at a South L.A. church held this week.

"When I'm at work I don't want to take (COVID-19) home and vice versa I don't want to be at home and take anything to the center," Shivers said.

The clinic aimed at early educators was a collaboration between her employer, Drew Child Development Corporation, Charles R. Drew University, Children's Hospital Los Angeles and Macedonia Baptist Church.

The list of organizations trying to get the word out to child care providers about when and how they can be vaccinated is even longer.

"Providers risked their own safety," said Ileana Lopez, external affairs director of Crystal Stairs, a non-profit child care resource and referral agency. "We felt a real commitment to now protect them and to help get them access to the vaccine."

We don't know how many child care workers under 65 have been vaccinated since they became eligible on March 1, but the Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles previously estimated the county's early education workforce at 100,000.

Many of L.A.'s child care workers are women of color — 65% are Latino, a population more likely to contract COVID-19. Tuesday's pop-up clinic was in Watts, where less than 22.5% of people over 18 have been vaccinated, among the lowest vaccination rates in the county.

Lopez said Crystal Stairs has sent out more than 11,000 texts, emails and social media messages about vaccine opportunities.

"Many of our providers don't just service families, they really service the community," Lopez said.

Nerves and Excitement

A woman in a halftone pink and white jacket presents stands over a plastic foldable table as she presents her ID to a woman sitting at the table.
Kindergarten teacher Lina Vargas presents her ID before receiving a coronavirus vaccine in the parking lot of Macedonia Baptist Church. | Stefanie Ritoper/ LAist

On any other weekday morning, Lina Vargas would be teaching kindergarten at Sunshine Preschool in Compton. She's worked in the field for 35 years.

On Tuesday, she waited in the Macedonia Baptist Church parking lot for her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, growing more nervous the closer she got to the doors.

"It's a lot of information out there," Vargas said. "It's negative and positive. So I'm not sure what side is the truth."

Vargas is not alone in her concern. There are still frequent discussions in child care provider Facebook groups about the vaccines efficacy and side effects — and some providers are wavering about whether to get a shot at all.

"Accompanying the vaccination is a lot of education," said Children's Hospital Los Angeles Nursing Director Jennifer Baird. "We want to make sure that ... they feel well-informed and able to make that decision for themselves."

Baird said the first clinic held for child care providers at the church earlier in March was a career highlight.

"To know that we had well over 300 people that had that first shot in their arm and a bridge to hope with the vaccine — nothing better than that feeling," she said.

Inside the church's fellowship hall, nurse Catherine Koanja talked Vargas through the possible side effects - chills, fever, headache and arm soreness among them.

"Did you have any questions or anything?" she asked

"No, here we go," Vargas said, and flashed a thumbs-up.

After a "take a deep breath in and out" from Koanja, it was over. Vargas picked up her white vaccination card, walked into the church's sanctuary and sat down at a pew to wait out a 15-minute observation period.

Lina Vargas holds her sleeve up as another woman administers the COVID-19 vaccine into Vargas' right arm.
"I am nervous. I'm scared," said kindergarten teacher Lina Vargas. "But I know we have to- I have to do it." | Stefanie Ritoper/ LAist

"I feel great, excited, because I just did it for me and for my family and for my students as well," Vargas said.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles expected to distribute up to 400 vaccinations to early educators and residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

Throughout the morning, a steady flow of people dropped in to the church, which hasn't held an in-person worship service since March 8, 2020.

"If you want to see people vaccinated in mass numbers, you have to go to where they are in the community," said Senior Pastor Shane Scott.

He also sits on the board of Drew Child Development Center and when presented with the idea of hosting the clinic said "absolutely."

"I think that we have yet to see the damage that COVID-19 will do and has done on children," Scott said. "If educators are being vaccinated in large numbers, it certainly helps them to get back to a place where they can... be social workers and therapists and aunties and grandmothers and uncles to these children."

Keep Reading if You're a Child Care Provider or Early Educator and Trying to Get a Vaccine

We've collected general information, like common vaccine questions and how to get an appointment here.

Los Angeles County

L.A. County is currently vaccinating Phase 1A, Phase 1B and individuals 50 and older. This includes educators and child care providers, healthcare workers, staff and residents at nursing/long-term care facilities, emergency services, food and agriculture workers. Download the one-pager on eligibility and requirements.

Who will be eligible?

Information is constantly being updated, but as of today, those eligible include a wide range of formal and informal child care providers, including those that are licensed, license-exempt, and unlicensed. Child care providers who are eligible include those who are at risk of exposure at work.

This can include:

  • Child care center staff
  • Family child care home providers
  • Family members residing in a home where a licensed family childcare is located
  • "Family, friend, and neighbor" providers who receive state subsidy payments
  • Staff members of agencies that provide child care resources and referrals
  • Employees of agencies that funnel state funding to subsidized child care providers
  • Staff from public parks and recreation and youth programs that provide child care
  • Custodial staff and janitors
  • Private domestic workers, such as nannies who work more than 20 hours per week

Right now, homeschooling and cooperative early care and education parents or guardians under age 50 are not eligible. That will change when the state opens vaccine eligibility to all Californians 16 and older on April 15.

What should you bring?

Providers will need to bring a picture ID, proof that they live or work in L.A. County, and documentation to prove that you work in the early care and education sector. In some cases, one document might cover more than one requirement. Because information on documentation is still evolving, a best practice would be to bring multiple forms of documentation just in case.

The list of documentation you can bring to show that you work as a child care provider includes:

  • Copy of State of CA Department of Social Services license for day care center or family day care home
  • Copy of State of California Emergency Child Care Waiver Novel Coronavirus 2019
  • School district badge or paycheck stub
  • Resource and Referral/Alternative Payment Agency Badge or Paycheck Stub
  • Community Care Licensing (Department of Social Services) badge
  • Youth agency badge or paycheck stub for Boys and Girls Club, YMCA/YWCA, or other youth organizations.
  • For administrators and coaches who go into the classroom and provide direct support to ECE providers, a letter signed by the director on letterhead which includes name of employee, facility and facility address.
  • Attestation letter from your employer which includes your name, and the name and address of the business.
  • Attestation letter from you which includes your name and the name and address of the business.

Visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health vaccination site for more information.

How to sign up and stay in the loop:

Multiple agencies are currently sending out information. To ensure vaccines get to child care providers who need them, particularly those working in the hardest-hit communities, some vaccination sites will be invitation-only. Some agencies will be sending out invitations to these sites.

Child care providers can receive vaccinations in the following ways:

  • Through county-run distribution points or healthcare providers
  • At county-run distribution sites with specific days for child care workers only
  • Through invitations from a resource and referral or alternative payment agency

Providers can also create a profile on the
CA ECE Workforce Registry to receive notifications, contact their local
resource and referral agency and join the next L.A. County ECE COVID-19 response team community call. They're typically on Friday mornings and information about those calls is usually posted on their website.

All others can sign up for appointments at myturn.ca.gov or the LA County vaccination appointment website. You can also sign up to receive email updates with updated information at vaccinatelacounty.com. If you don't have a computer, you can call 833-540-0473 from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Orange County

Orange County is vaccinating Phase 1A, 1B, people ages 65 and older and those ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions, which includes formal and informal child care/day care, healthcare workers, staff and residents at nursing/long-term care facilities, educators, emergency services, food and agriculture workers.

How to prepare:

Those eligible for vaccines need to show a government-issued ID to verify their name, age and residence.

"During the registration process, people self-attest to their occupation, medical condition, or another qualifying category that makes them eligible to receive the vaccine," said OC Health Care Agency public information officer Jessica Good.

The county's website says eligible individuals can register for vaccines at othena.com.

Pasadena

Pasadena, which has its own health department, is currently vaccinating Phase 1A and Phase 1B which includes child care workers, educators, healthcare workers, staff and residents at nursing/long-term care facilities,residents 50 and older, Individuals ages 16 to 64 at "higher risk," emergency services, food, agriculture workers.

The city is following state guidance about eligibility, so both formal and informal child care workers will be eligible. Child care providers will need to show proof of current, eligible employment in the City of Pasadena, such as a letter from an employer, work badge/ID, paystub, etc. Child care providers who live in Pasadena but work elsewhere will also be asked to provide proof of City of Pasadena residency as well. See the above recommendations for L.A. County documentation for examples for child care providers.

The city is working with its Office of the Young Child and the local resource and referral agency Options For Learning to understand how to reach the various sectors of the child care workforce.

Long Beach

Long Beach, another city with its own health department, is vaccinating people in Phase 1A and Phase 1B, which includes child care workers, educators, those 50 years of age and older, emergency response workers, food and agriculture workers, residents ages 16 to 49 with disabilities and underlying medical conditions, janitorial and custodial services, food and agriculture workers.

Here's the specific child care workers eligible, according to the city's vaccine website: Nannies, home-based child care workers, all staff (including facilities and maintenance staff) at preschools, day camps, afterschool programs and home schooling programs.

Those eligible for a vaccine will need to bring an ID with a name that matches the one on your appointment. The ID doesn't need to be issued by the government and could include a driver's license, business card, work ID, library card, bank card, utility bill, matricula consular, paystub or passport. You also need to show proof of employment such as a work ID or a paystub.

"They should bring a letter from their employer if they are a nanny, or some proof of their business if they run a daycare (business card, etc.)," wrote Jennifer Rice Epstein, public affairs officer for the city of Long Beach, in an email.

Engagement producer Stefanie Ritoper contributed to this story.

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