Much uncertainty remains regarding the status of federal employees for Coronavirus inoculations and the level of coordination between federal agencies and state governments, now three weeks since inoculations started.
With most of the available doses going to states for them to distribute, “Federal employees need to know the vaccine guidelines for their agency, if they can expect their employing agency to administer their vaccine and what is expected to access it,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., has written to administration officials, saying he has been trying without success to get that information.
“If not, it needs to be communicated to their corresponding state and local public health department if they qualify as frontline, as an essential worker, and that they make plans to get vaccinated through their healthcare provider. Without this notification, states and localities will not know which federal employees need to be covered under their distribution plans rather than under the federal distribution plan,” he wrote.
He asked for information on agencies expecting to administer their own vaccines and their guidelines for priority and what is being done to notify state and local public health departments of employees not eligible for an agency administered vaccine, among other information.
Distribution in general is being made according to CDC guidance, with front-line health care workers and residents of nursing homes and similar facilities the top priority—the so-called 1a list. Meanwhile, two agencies with the largest number of federal employees in the health care field, DoD and VA, have received separate shipments and have begun inoculating those workers.
In some of the earliest accounting available, the VA recently announced that they inoculated 50,000 employees plus 5,000 veterans in the first two weeks. VA’s overall workforce is in the 400,000 range, most of them in the health care branch but how many of them would qualify for first-group treatment has not been publicly stated.
Further, the relationship between the two types of distributions is not well defined, nor are the numbers of federal employees who have been inoculated—or who soon are to be—inoculated under one or the other.
An additional complication is that both of DoD and the VA operate the type of residential facilities atop the general priority list, with again little clarity on the source of those doses or how priority for those people is being weighed against the health care workers.
It further is not clear when all of those in the 1a category who want the vaccine will have received it, allowing the next phase, 1b, to begin. The CDC advisory panel that determines priorities meanwhile recently redefined that category to include all those age 75 and older plus “frontline essential workers” in fields other than health care.
That category also encompasses many federal occupations, including first responders such as police and firefighters, corrections officers and the U.S. Postal Service—as well as food and agricultural workers, which presumably would include Agriculture Department inspectors. That category also includes several other occupations represented in the federal workforce, including transit, education and child care.