Uber Wants Its Non-Employee Drivers to Get Early Vaccines

source https://sfist.com/2020/12/11/uber-wants-its-non-employee-drivers-to-get-early-vaccines/

Industry trade organizations are lining up to lobby the CDC and states to get their workers high up in the queue of Americans waiting to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who does not want to have to classify rideshare and delivery drivers as employees, wants those drivers to prioritized for vaccinations.

Uber and its app-based peers won out at the ballot box in November defeating Prop 22 at great expense in order not to have to provide health insurance or unemployment benefits for millions of app-based drivers. But now Khosrowshahi is tweeting his hope that states and the Centers for Disease Control will bump up these drivers in the prioritization line for the coronavirus vaccine.

“I’m asking governors in all 50 states + DC to prioritize drivers & delivery people for early vaccine access,” Khosrowshahi said. “These frontline workers should get the vaccine before people like me.”

As Reuters reports, Khosrowshahi wrote letters to all 50 governors to this effect, and he plans to write a letter to President-elect Joe Biden as well.

“Over the last nine months, these workers have been a lifeline to their communities,” the letters read. “They have transported healthcare workers to hospitals, delivered food to people socially distancing at home, and helped local restaurants stay in business.”

But Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and DoorDash drivers aren’t the only workers that will be pleading their cases as “essential” as federal and state governments begin sorting out the dicey second phase of vaccine distribution.

As ABC 7 explains, Phase 1a of the vaccination process, at least in California, begins with patients and workers in acute care and psychiatric hospitals, correctional facility hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, dialysis centers, paramedics, EMTs, and others emergency medical service workers. The first of those people will begin getting the Pfizer vaccine as soon as next week, with Moderna vaccine doses to follow.

Phase 1b, most states agree, will continue down the line of “essential” workers, but defining who’s more or less essential will involve some debate, and not every state is going to make the same decisions.

Law enforcement and teachers could be prioritized over meat-packing plant and manufacturing workers, for instance. What about pharmacy employees, and dental technicians? And thus we have a heavy amount of lobbying going on from all corners.

KatieRose McCullough, the Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the North American Meat Institute, penned a letter to the CDC arguing that “Meat industry workers are part of the essential workforce and prioritizing them will provide an efficient means of administering the vaccine to a significant number of people who have been identified by CDC as a population that was greatly affected by COVID-19.”

Per ABC 7, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the National Press Photographers Association have both penned their own letters arguing the cases for their workers to be prioritized. And as the Wall Street Journal reported last week, airline industry trade groups, CEOs, and unions have also been doing lobbying for their workers.

How the CDC makes its priority list, and/or how the states decide to dole out vaccine doses, could have broad impacts on many suffering industries in the next six months.

Phase 1c of vaccine distribution, following the parade of frontline and essential workers, will likely include Americans over the age of 65 and those with serious underlying health conditions. This phase should bleed into the next phase, in which the general population gets their vaccines, but at that point vaccine production and distribution should be ramped up to the point that it will be easy to get the vaccine from your local chain pharmacy or your doctor. Hopefully.

Photo: Victor Xok

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