A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advisory group released recommendations for vaccine prioritization surrounding "Phase II" of distribution after frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents. Travel center employees, as "essential" workers, fall within Phase 2, but so too do tens of thousands of others. The CDC panel's recommendations were designed to assist states in prioritizing this group of people.
The CDC group's recommendations will guide state authorities in deciding who should have priority to receive limited doses. The priorities represent a compromise between the desire to shield people most likely to catch and transmit the virus (because they cannot socially distance or work from home) and the effort to protect people who are most prone to serious complications and death.
NATSO sent a letter last week to this CDC advisory panel urging them to prioritize our industry and consider the interdependence of essential workers in vaccine distribution.
The recommendations appear to divide essential workers into two categories: "Frontline" essential workers (~30 million) should receive priority, followed by "other" essential workers (~57 million). It’s not precisely clear which category travel center employees would fall into, underscoring the importance of engagement with state-level decision-makers.
"Frontline" essential workers are comprised of critical workers in high-risk settings in industries essential to the functioning of society and substantially higher risk of exposure. It includes the following:
- First responders
- Education (teachers, etc.)
- Food and agriculture
- Corrections workers
- US Postal Workers
- Public transit workers
- Grocery store workers
- One could argue that travel center workers are "grocery" store workers for these purposes.
- "Other" essential workers are essential workers in industries that are not included above, including:
- Transportation and logistics (This presumably includes truck drivers and, one might argue, travel centers as well.)
- Food service
- Shelter & Housing
- IT / Communication
- Public Safety (engineers)
- Waste & Wastewater
According to The Washington Post, the desire to expand the pool of people receiving vaccinations is colliding with the reality that doses are limited.
The priority groups considered on Sunday exceed the number of shots government officials expect to be available in the first months of 2021. In January, there is anticipated to be sufficient supply for 30 million people, with an additional 50 million people in February.
Decisions on moving to the next phase of vaccination are up to the states, and they will depend on demand and the details of the local vaccine rollout.
Advisory group members made clear that the broad outlines will give states flexibility to make priority decisions locally. States will probably move through the phases at different speeds.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance stating that companies can bar employees from the workplace if they aren't vaccinated. Some employees may receive religious exemptions.
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