For months, essential workers put their own health at risk to care for others and keep the country running. But how states face the difficult decision of whom to give limited doses of the vaccine COVID-19, the question is: who is more essential?
The term “essential worker” was used for the first time by states and localities to make exceptions to orders to stay home in the early stages of the pandemic. But each different state, local, tribal and territorial government applied different definitions.
In March, Christopher Krebs, Director of the Department of Homeland Security at the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency, issued guidance which identified several categories of essential workers.
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The list included healthcare workers, law enforcement, first responders, food and agriculture, energy, water and sewage, transportation and logistics, public works and infrastructure, communications and information technology, community and government support services, manufacturing , hazardous materials, financial services, chemicals, defense, shelter and hygiene.
One thing is certain, there are not enough vaccines for all essential workers, several sources told Reuters. And there is a lot of competition. A report in The Los Angeles Times says some wealthy Californians are offering doctors tens of thousands of dollars and getting their personal assistants to call doctors every day in an effort to get their hands on the vaccine.
Right now, the power to determine who gets the vaccine is in the hands of the distributor, namely health departments and pharmacies. Reuters asked pharmacy operators CVS, Walgreens and Kroger Co, all referring to state and local guidelines.
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“If the jurisdiction requests support from Walgreens, Walgreens will distribute a voucher or authorization form that the individual can use to schedule a vaccination appointment,” a Walgreens spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.
“In some cases, the state will identify and verify individuals before they are referred to us for vaccination,” a Kroger spokesman told Reuters.
This raises more questions about how essential workers will have to prove their identity over those who still remain. But two organizations – the Consumer Brands Association and the Food Industry Association – have told Reuters they are doing their best to follow the guidelines.
“We understand that states may have different designation standards, but (we are) working to provide our members with a resource to help reduce confusion,” a spokesman for the Food Industry Association said in a statement to Reuters.
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