Electric Utility Workers Need the COVID-19 Vaccine First
Update, 2/20/2021. The original article was written on 12/19/2020.
I am sure you have read and heard about the power outages in Texas. These power outages show us how vulnerable we are without reliable electric power. People working in the power industry are key to the economy and safety of our population. The power outages in Texas and the resulting devastation reinforces the conclusions of the original article.
The original article starts here.
The FDA has now approved two vaccines to fight COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has already been administered to front-line healthcare workers, and the Moderna vaccine will soon follow. AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has also been approved for use overseas in the U.K. and India, among other countries.
The development of these vaccines in record time is a significant achievement for modern science. To put this in perspective, the chicken pox vaccine was developed over a 28-year period, the HPV vaccine took 15 years to develop, and even the polio vaccine took six full years to develop. In conclustion, the work doesn’t stop here.
The production, transportation and administration of these vaccines will take a herculean effort by federal, state and local governments, and businesses across the country. There are bound to be hiccups along the way. However, we should all understand the monumental effort needed to get this right.
Who gets the vaccine first?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines submitted to U.S. states say that the nation’s healthcare workers should receive the vaccine first. Closely followed by the three million elderly Americans living in long-term care homes. Who can argue that front line healthcare workers and older Americans should be the first to receive the vaccine first? It’s a strategic deployment while production on these vaccines ramps up.
Who comes next? Approximately 87 million essential workers are expected to be next in line for the vaccine. The caveat is that it’s up to states to decide which industries to prioritize.
Essential electric utility workers should be next to receive the vaccine
There are many essential workers in our great country, from manufacturers to mail carriers. While they all deserve priority in the vaccine rollout, essential electric utility workers need to rank near the top. Why? Because without electricity, nothing in our economy works. It’s impossible to manufacture, deliver, store or administer the vaccine without electricity. Our hospitals cannot treat patients without electricity. The hospitals do have backup generators; however, the generators will only run until they run out of fuel.
The first priority among essential electric utility workers needs to be those hard-working people manning our power plants. Most power plants are labor-intensive and workers cannot maintain social distancing when performing certain tasks. These individuals are essential and at-risk.
The second priority among essential utility workers are those individuals working in the field—linemen, station operators, metering techs and other jobs associated with the transmission and distribution of power.
There are also several other jobs that revolve around the essential operation and maintenance of power plants, and transmission and distribution systems. They all deserve priority vaccination because without them, our economy cannot function. Imagine even a single day without power and it’s easy to see why these essential electric utility workers need to be near the top of the list to keep the electricity flowing.
State officials to decide who gets the vaccine
State and local politicians have the final say on who’s next in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Please share this article on social media or forward it on to someone else to help get the word out about the importance of vaccinations for electrical utility workers. Although each state is different and may have different priorities. I hope the Federal government leaves the decision to the state governments and they act accordingly to keep our energy workers safe and healthy.
Essential workers need to get the vaccine as soon as possible
The first to receive the vaccine should be hard-working essential workers. Here’s a list of some of the essential sectors that should receive the vaccine early in the distribution process:
- Food industry
- Transportation industry
- Natural gas industry
- Water and wastewater industry
- Military, police, firemen and first responders
- Corrections workers
I apologize for any other essential workers that I may have missed and should be on this list. It is my opinion the essential workers have the right to decide whether or not to receive the vaccine. Please share this article where others can read and start a conversation about prioritizing utility workers to receive the vaccine.
For full disclosure, I worked in the electric utility industry for about 28 years. I was a Vice President of Power Production and Vice President for Transmission and Distribution, and retired from the industry in 2009. In conclusion, I do not fall into any of the essential industries listed in this article and will probably be one of the last to receive access to the vaccine. Nonetheless, I remain a staunch advocate for utility workers, as I hold a deep appreciation for the important work they do.
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