The general procedure of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, as it is now, requires the patient to be a member of the eligible phase (currently 1a, 1b, or even 1c in some states), and also to prove that they are a citizen of the state distributing the vaccine. For most of the population, who drive less than 100 miles in a single day, getting a vaccine in the state they live in is common sense. As with most things, however, some nuances slip through the cracks. What is a truck driver, who can go for weeks at a time without returning to their home state, to do about getting a vaccine?
The Three Current Phases
While it is ultimately up to each individual state to determine who is eligible for a vaccine at what time, both the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) have provided guidance that almost every state has followed.
The three current phases that states are tackling are all based on phase one, people who need it to keep society functioning. Phase one is subdivided based on who is either the most vulnerable or most in contact with others:
- Phase 1a: Healthcare workers and those over age 75.
- Phase 1b: Frontline essential workers (grocery store clerks, police, etc.) and those between age 65 to 74.
- Phase 1c: Essential workers not included in Phase 1b (lawyers, truck drivers, plumbers) age 16 to 64.
After those three, vaccines may be distributed to other patients, such as children with next-to-no risk of dying from COVID-19, but may miss a few weeks of school as a result.
The Problem with Truckers and How to Fix it
Getting a vaccine for a majority of people is pretty straightforward: schedule an appointment, prove your eligibility through age or occupation, provide proof you are a citizen of the state you are getting vaccinated, and get a needle in the arm.
Such a solution would work for a plumber, but truck drivers traveling from load to load could go weeks without returning to their home state, and come in contact with dozens upon hundreds of people at truck stops and delivery points during that time.
Bureaucracy often fails to see the big picture beyond the words written on paper. After all, why should a Kansas healthcare worker vaccinate a trucker just passing through? It sounds reasonable, until he catches the virus in Virginia and spreads it to 24 other workers in Topeka on his next delivery!
While truckers do not come in contact with people very often, their long-distance travel makes them prime candidates for contagion. Vaccinating them would slow the interstate spread of COVID-19 to a crawl.
NATSO, an association of truck stops and travel plazas, wrote a letter to the director of the CDC with a proposed solution: have the CDC handle interstate travelers getting vaccinated, and utilize truck stops and travel plazas as vaccination sites.
Earlier this year, the OOIDA and ATA sent in similar letters.
The three vaccines currently in US markets (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson) are on a sliding scale of effectiveness and practicality. While Johnson & Johnson vaccines only have a 66% effectiveness, meaning someone with the vaccine has a third of a chance of catching the virus from the same source as someone without the vaccine, its relaxed temperature requirements (it is stable in a refrigerator, whereas others need dry ice to stay stable), low cost to produce, and requiring only one dose to be effective makes it the prime candidate for truck stop inoculations. These three factors would make it much easier for the CDC to administer to truck drivers, rather than NATSO’s suggestion of letting a trucker get a second vaccination at another truck stop or travel plaza elsewhere in the nation.