Latest on the Vaccine Eligibility and Essential Services
As you all know all too well, the federal government deferred much of the decision-making on administration and eligibility of the COVID vaccine to the states and localities, making it very difficult for companies deemed essential last year to ensure that their employees are eligible to get the vaccine. While we have not found a way to streamline the process, we hope these resources will help you navigate the maze.
Essential Services: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which determined the guidelines for essential services at the beginning of the pandemic, announced in a December 16th memorandum that those essential service designations would apply to vaccine distribution as well. Also, in that memo CISA re-published its comprehensive list of those essential services. You can read their memo and essential services guidelines HERE.
Vaccine Eligibility Determinations: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), published information on how individuals and groups would be determined to be eligible for the vaccine. Eligibility was broken down into phases, and the first phase into subgroups – 1a, 1b, and 1c.
CDC has published a comprehensive list of the post-1a group eligibility, which you can access HERE. While this list does include essential workers in categories 1b and 1c, it is a much shorter list than CISA’s and it isn’t clear whether the CDC simply lists essential services in much broader categories than CISA, or whether some essential services on the CISA list have been excluded from the ACIP/CDC list.
Federal Government Deferred Decision to States/Localities: Further complicating things, while the federal government retained full control over allocating the vaccine distribution, they deferred to the states not only the physical administration of the vaccine, but the final decisions on what they considered essential services. Specifically, according to the CDC, the critical infrastructure workforce varies by jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction must decide which groups to focus on when vaccine supply is limited by determining key sectors that may be within their populations (e.g., port-related workers in coastal jurisdictions).
Last year NAW sent a letter to governors urging them to follow the federal guidelines; on Tuesday NAW CEO Eric Hoplin sent a similar letter to all governors urging them to follow the CISA essential services guidelines for vaccine administration. You can read the letter HERE.
Resources for employers:
Unfortunately, employers – even in essential service sectors – now must deal with state and/or local public health agencies to ensure that their employees are eligible for the vaccine.
There are some resources that should help determine your next steps:
• The CDC has a website that provides links directly to the relevant health agency in each state with information on their vaccine programs. While we have not been able to find a single source for all the local government agencies administering the vaccine, many of the state agencies linked to on this site do provide that information for their state. Click Here
• The Kaiser Family Foundation has a particularly helpful website that provides detailed information on the degree to which each state is following the ACIP recommendations, and how they differ if they are not doing so. Click Here
• The Littler Law firm website provides a frequently updated list of Statewide Vaccination Plans. Click Here
If you plan to contact your governor or local health department to request that your employees be deemed essential for vaccine eligibility, you might find this letter template helpful. This template is addressed to a governor but could just as readily be used to communicate with a local health department. Click Here for the template.
Also, in the early weeks of the pandemic we provided template letters that your warehouse employees and drivers could carry to identify themselves as essential. Similarly, this template for a “carry letter” might be useful to your employees to identify themselves as essential when they become eligible and prepare to get the vaccination. Click Here for this template.
We will continue to look for information and resources that might be helpful to you as the vaccine distribution and administration continues.