By AMANDA MAILE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — It will take up to 8,000 Boeing 747 freighters to distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the globe – and lobbyists are calling for aviation employees to be considered essential workers in vaccination campaigns.
In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a coalition of lobbyists and unions asked for the group to “prioritize” frontline aviation workers in the next phase of vaccination.
“Aviation workers are also frontline workers who either encounter the traveling public frequently or are required to perform our work in close proximity to our colleagues and require us to be onsite,” the letter said. “While our employers have implemented multiple layers of protection for the well-being of the traveling public and employees, the very nature of these jobs exposes the aviation workforce to risk similar to other frontline workers.”
ACIP’s proposed guidelines say transportation workers could be included in the next round. The coalition stressed aviation employees should be vaccinated after healthcare workers and vulnerable populations.
“We are not asking for aviation workers to be on top of the list, but we need governments to ensure that transportation workers are considered as essential when vaccine roll-out plans are developed, Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of the world’s airlines, said in a press release.
Airlines for America, an industry trade organization that represents major U.S. airlines, said because carriers are being called upon to distribute the coronavirus vaccines “it is critical that our employees are on the job and ready to assist.”
The Airports Council International (ACI), a global trade association representing airports worldwide, echoed this, saying airport workers are “frontline staff” who are in daily contact with the traveling public, and the aviation industry is key to “driving the recovery from the pandemic through the movement of essential goods, including, of course, the vaccines.”
“As the global roll-out of vaccines commences, it is clear that the most vulnerable in our society and those key healthcare workers who are doing so much to keep us all safe and healthy are prioritized for vaccination,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “As this crucial group is vaccinated, it is then important for other key groups are prioritized to receive the vaccines so they can support a global recovery from the pandemic.”
“Air transportation will be essential to fight back against the virus and return to normal, even if it is a new normal,” the letter said.
ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.