Essential Workers Next in Line for COVID-19 Vaccines

The Biden Administration wants vaccines available to all adults by May 1.

March 16, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine

WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden has directed states to make coronavirus vaccines available to all adults by May 1, reports Business Insider. But state vaccination timelines vary with some citizens receiving earlier priority than others.

So far, no state has opened vaccinations to the general population yet, and in most states, vaccines are being rolled out in phases that don't neatly follow those outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are:

Phase 1a: Health-care personnel and long-term care facility residents

Phase 1b: People ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers, including convenience store employees 

Phase 1c: People ages 65 to 74, people ages 16 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions, and any remaining essential workers

Phase 2: All other people ages 16 and older not already recommended for vaccination

Convenience and fuel industry workers qualify as frontline essential workers for vaccination priority under CDC guidelines, as convenience stores were designated as essential businesses back in March 2020.

Roughly half of U.S. states are vaccinating at least some of their grocery-store workers, according to a New York Times survey. Like c-store employees, these workers fall into the CDC's second priority group, Phase 1b. Employees in this priority group will be eligible for vaccines in Washington starting Wednesday and in Pennsylvania starting March 28. In Louisiana, grocery-store workers are scheduled to be part of its next priority tier, but it's not clear when those vaccinations will be available.

The following states are already vaccinating essential workers in phase 1b: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

At least 17 states are vaccinating restaurant workers, which fall into the CDC's Phase 1c priority group, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Hawaii will open vaccinations to restaurant workers this week, and Colorado expects to do the same on March 21. 

Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Nevada, South Carolina and Vermont are now vaccinating people ages 55 and up, while Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Wyoming and West Virginia are vaccinating people ages 50 and older. Georgia will start giving shots to people 55 and up this week, and Colorado will start vaccinating people in their 50s on March 19. 

All but 10 states—Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Washington—are vaccinating adults with high-risk medical conditions. Hawaii will expand vaccine eligibility to those adults this week. North Carolina will do the same on Wednesday, followed by Alabama on March 22.