Water Groups Encourage Utilities to Apply for Priority Vaccinations for Water Workers

Emerging Issues

The Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) is urging U.S. water and wastewater utilities to coordinate with state and local health departments to ensure they are included in distribution plans for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Today, WSCC, issued an open letter describing utility actions to increase the speed of receiving vaccine doses for water sector workers.

Timely local government engagement on these discussions is essential. While the federal government has issued recommendations for vaccine prioritization, the final decisions related to planning and distribution will occur at the state and local levels.

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations places utility workers in the Phase 1-B category with the description of “people who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace.”

The WSCC letter states, “It is important to reach out to state and local public health agencies soon, as prioritization decisions are being made now.” The letter also advises utilities to develop internal priorities for vaccinations because they may not receive enough doses to vaccinate every staff member.

The letter also states that, “Vaccinating frontline water and wastewater utility staff members is particularly important because, as a lifeline sector, water and wastewater sector services underpin all aspects of society, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. Due to the specialized skills and licenses required for utility operations, and the corresponding challenges in finding replacements for staff members who may become ill or exposed, it is essential to mitigate staff members’ COVID-19 risks through all possible means, including vaccinations.”

Download the WSCC letter >


Vaccination Priority Phase 1-B

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators also released their recommendation on prioritizing water and wastewater workers for vaccination. Announcement from ASDWA…

Recently, EPA’s Water Security Division released information on the COVID-19 vaccination prioritization process for water and wastewater utility workers. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes water and wastewater utility staff and their suppliers and manufacturers as part of the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” (see page 15).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s phased approach for COVID-19 vaccinations recommends that non-health care essential workers, which include water utility staff, receive priority in Phase 1-B of the COVID Vaccination Program (see Section 4).

EPA plans to continue to work closely with CDC and other federal agencies to ensure that the water sector continues to receive the most up to date information and the agency recommends water utilities coordinate with their state and local governments and health departments regarding vaccination distribution planning.