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Which New York City Front Line Workers Will Get the Next Shot at the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Published Friday, January 8, 2021
by Claudia Irizarry Aponte, Reuven Blau, Jose Martinez & Greg B. Smith/THE CITY
Which New York City Front Line Workers Will Get the Next Shot at the COVID-19 Vaccine?

(NEW YORK CITY) - A month into the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations have yet to fully spell out which “Front Line Essential Workers” are next in line after Health Care Staff and nursing homes get the shots.

That’s increased anxiety for many New Yorkers hailed as heroes of the Coronavirus Pandemic - from Doormen and for-hire Vehicle Drivers to Food Delivery People and Pharmacy Clerks - who’ve risked their lives while others work from home.

“In order for society to continue to function, these Essential Workers ‘must be kept safe,’” said Stuart Appelbaum, who serves as President of the 45,000-member Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU) that represents, among others, Workers at some grocery and pharmacy chains.

The first vaccines arrived in New York on December 14th, but the rollout has been slowed by bureaucratic and other obstacles.

Front Line Health Care Workers were first up, but some - about 30% - have resisted taking the vaccine, New York State Health Officials say.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said that as of Thursday afternoon (January 7th), 433,000 individuals had received the vaccine statewide.

All of the recipients so far are “Category 1A,” which to date includes only Health Care Workers and Nursing Home Staff and residents.

The state estimates that amounts to 2.1 million people across New York.

Also on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded Cuomo expand the list of those eligible in Category 1A to include some Police, Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).

Cuomo is insisting - at least for now - vaccines go only to Health Care Workers and nursing homes.

Meanwhile, neither de Blasio nor Cuomo have yet to reveal the full list of all who will be eligible for the next round, Category 1B, or even when it will begin.

The state expects 6.3 million people will fall into this category.

The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, which is coordinating the vaccine rollout in the five boroughs, describes this group as “Front Line Essential Workers who cannot physically distance and have frequent in-person contact with others.”

The city has proposed including anyone 75 years or older, Firefighters, Police, EMTs, Teachers and some unspecified School Staff, Corrections Officers and inmates, and Workers and residents in homeless shelters.

But de Blasio Administration Officials have not responded to repeated requests by THE CITY to release the entire list of those potentially covered by the broad “Front Line Essential Worker” category.

In any case, the state, which has the final say on who goes first, has been similarly lacking in transparency.

Cuomo has said Police, Firefighters, Education, Public Safety and Public Transit Workers will be next in line, but State Department of Health officials declined to go beyond that.

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