Utility Action Needed to Ensure COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization for Water Sector Workers
The Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) released a December 14 memo encouraging water and wastewater utilities to contact their state and local public health agencies about prioritization of their staff for COVID-19 vaccinations. Although the federal government has published recommendations for vaccine prioritization, the final decisions about vaccine distribution will be made at the state and local levels. Local engagement by utilities is therefore critical to ensure that frontline water sector workers receive priority for the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations includes “people who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace” in Phase 1-B of vaccine distribution. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes water and wastewater sector workers as essential critical infrastructure workers. As the WSCC states in its memo,
“As a lifeline sector, water and wastewater sector services underpin all aspects of society, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. Due to the specialized skills and licenses required for utility operations, and the corresponding challenges in finding replacements for staff members who may become ill or exposed, it is essential to mitigate staff members’ COVID-19 risks through all possible means, including vaccinations.”
NACWA and other water sector associations have drafted a template letter for utilities to use when contacting their state or local health authorities. With the vaccine now becoming available and health departments finalizing their distribution plans, utilities are encouraged to contact the appropriate state and local agencies to enquire about the plans and request that essential utility workers be given vaccine prioritization.
Please contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, with any questions.