Fedweek

With the recent announcements of several promising vaccines for the Coronavirus, many federal employees in front-line positions have been asking whether they will be considered among the highest priorities once one or more of the vaccines become available, potentially starting as soon as a matter of weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees in positions including law enforcement, prisons operations, traveler screening and medical care providers in general have continued to work at their official duty stations since the pandemic’s outbreak even as large numbers of their co-workers were put on been telework. Some of latter group have been called back, but generally not to places of especially high risk and in some cases only for a few days a week.

A recently released “interim playbook” from the CDC on vaccine distribution says that what it calls “multi-jurisdictional vaccination providers” will “enroll directly with CDC to order and receive COVID-19 vaccine.” Along with entities such as large drugstore chains, several federal agencies are listed as being in line to “receive a direct allocation of COVID-19 vaccine.” These are:

* Bureau of Prisons, all staff and inmates;

* DoD “civilian and contractor employees (those who regularly receive care through DoD as well as those who don’t)” along with military personnel and their dependents and military retirees but not their dependents;

* Department of State, “all personnel under Chief of Mission eligible to receive care through DoS and Stateside civil service employees”;

* VA “staff (including volunteers and trainees) and veterans regularly receiving care at VHA facilities”;

* Indian Health Service, tribal nations selecting IHS for vaccine allocation, “potentially includes IHS/Tribal/Urban facility staff and individuals served.”

The document does not say exactly how agencies receiving direct allocations are to administer vaccinations.

In terms of occupations in general, the document lists as high priority healthcare personnel and others on a DHS list of “critical infrastructure” workers including—as pertinent to the federal workforce—law enforcement, public safety and other first responders; workers “enabling the sale of human food,” “supporting the energy sector” or “supporting or enabling transportation and logistics functions”; and communications and IT.

With the nation recently having passed the 12 million mark in infections and the 250,000 mark in deaths, there is no official count of infections and deaths among federal employees. However, based on the reports only of just a handful of major agencies such as DoD, USPS, VA, TSA and CBP, the former number is at least above 50,000 and the latter at least several hundred.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said that as of last week, federal employees have filed 6,620 claims under the FECA injury compensation law asserting they contracted the virus on the job.

Of those, 3,477 have been accepted, 339 were denied, 191 have been withdrawn, and 2,613 are unadjudicated. There have been 91 COVID-19 death claims, of which 14 have been accepted, 9 have been withdrawn, and 68 are unadjudicated, it said.

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