CDC establishes when construction workers should get COVID-19 vaccine

Essential Status

CDC establishes when construction workers should get COVID-19 vaccine

A healthcare worker prepares to inoculate a patient with a dose of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. (Navy Medicine/Flickr/Public Domain)

With the administration of the coronavirus vaccine now underway in the United States (although at an alarmingly sluggish and haphazard rate in many locales), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has released inoculation rollout recommendations that place construction workers at the front-ish of the line.

Per the December 20 recommendations, construction workers are categorized as “other essential workers” and fall under the 1C vaccination phase alongside IT and communication workers, engineers, food service workers, civic infrastructure and transportation workers, and those employed in the legal, media, energy, and finance sectors. Phase 1C also recommends vaccinating adults and teenagers with medical conditions that place them at increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

Phase 1C is the final rollout stage of a larger initial vaccination phase that places health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities first (Phase 1A) followed by all individuals 75-years-old and older as well as non-healthcare “frontline essential workers,” a grouping that includes grocery store employees, U.S. Postal service workers, first responders (police officers and firefighters), teachers and educators, public transit workers, corrections workers, and those working in manufacturing and food and agriculture (Phase 1B.)

While the two remaining vaccination phases that follow Phase 1 and its three stages are a touch complex when it comes to who is recommended to go first, emphasis was placed on older adults and people of all ages with underlying health conditions. Young adults and children who are at low risk of infection along with healthy adults who work in industries not included in Phases 1 and 2 are essentially all lumped into Phase 3.

The essential workers, frontline or otherwise, categorized under Phases 1B and 1C represent a total of roughly 87 million Americans, per ACIP recommendations, with an estimated 30 million people in the first grouping and 57 million people in the second grouping. As of this writing, roughly 4.8 million people in the U.S. have received a dose of the vaccine according to CDC statistics shared by the New York Times with South Dakota, North Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska, Vermont, Maine, Montana, Connecticut, and Tennessee leading the way in terms of percentage of residents who have been administered a shot. Arizona and states in the Deep South—Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana—rank at the bottom when considering the percentage of shots given to each state’s respective population. States with large populations including California, Texas, New York, and Florida have administered the most shots overall.

As noted by Construction Dive, the ACIP’s recommendations are, of course, non-binding and the exact rollout timing is left to local and state health officials based on local need, available doses, and other factors. The CDC’s ideal timetable would see Phase 1C vaccinations commence nationwide in February or shortly thereafter although, as mentioned, counties in states like Florida (not a surprise) have struggled to accommodate individuals grouped under Phases 1A and 1B seeking the vaccination.

Per Engineering News-Record, all construction workers are recommended for inoculation under Phase 1C, no matter their trade or what type of project they are working on. This was clarified by Brian Turmail, a spokesperson for Associated General Contractors, following confusion as to whether or not construction workers involved with non-residential projects should be vaccinated under Phase 1C. (The ACIP recommendations listed the construction trade under “Shelter and Housing.”)

“We checked with them and CDC staff indicated the words shelter and housing were given only as examples and that the prior classification of all construction workers as essential was intended,” Turmail told Engineering News-Record.

While most construction work has resumed across the country with enhanced safety precautions in place following widespread work stoppages during the early months of the pandemic, activity at some construction sites—including a handful of major ones across the U.S.—has been halted for days or weeks at a time during the pandemic following coronavirus outbreaks among workers, some widespread. As England enters an aggressive national lockdown to help curb the spread a highly contagious new variant of the virus, construction workers are exempt from stay-at-home orders and permitted to continue to report to job sites. “… people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing … should continue to travel to their workplace” explained new guidelines. The same is also true for Scotland, also in lockdown mode, for the time being.