MONTPELIER — Mining employees, cattlemen and beef producers, Lyft taxi ride drivers, postal workers and massage therapists are among 56 statewide or national groups that have petitioned Gov. Phil Scott to provide them priority status during Vermont’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The list also includes some education groups like the National Education Association and Vermont State College faculty that has been asking in recent months that Vermont teachers be given a top priority ranking.
Some grocery store related associations and some private employers, like the Healthy Living Market petitioned for their frontline employees to get the shots.
Scott’s press secretary, Jason Maulucci, said as far as he knew the state had not provided special status for any of the associations. He did note some individual members of an association may have fallen into the top priority groups that the state has offered shots.
One possible example would be the American Academy of Head and Neck Surgery, which was seeking access for ear, nose and throat physicians. Because doctors fall within the health care workers in the state’s so-called “IA” list those physicians may have received shots.
“This is why it is so complicated,” he said.
The Governor’s office released the list Wednesday afternoon in response to a request by The Islander newspaper during comments made by the administration at the Tuesday news conference about the various requests received. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the state had received many requests asking for special consideration.
A request to the Vermont Health Department for its list was still pending early Wednesday Evening.
Maulucci said the Governor’s office began to receive requests in late November or early December when word of vaccine shots began to surface in Vermont. He stressed not all were asking to be first, but rather to get some consideration for their work.
In an ironic twist, the U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers, both have petitioned Gov. Scott to get priority status. Early in the deadly pandemic Gov. Scott’s office had reached out to postal authorities following complaints from the public that delivery personnel were not wearing masks. The state said it was told little could be done because it was a postal union issue.
Among those also petitioning the Governor, but unclear where they stand is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Maulucci said it was unknown if officers were able to take advantage of a federal program.
Vermont had initially bumped law enforcement and firefighters off the priority list, but Scott took action after learning ski patrollers had been granted shots. Most municipal police and county sheriffs have been approved, while the Department of Public Safety has approved vaccine shots only for its fulltime officers up to the rank of sergeant.
State police lieutenants and above can only get shots if a vaccine site has extra and reaches out directly, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling explained at Gov. Scott’s press conference on Tuesday. Schirling said high ranking officers have been told they would face departmental discipline if they asked on their own for the vaccine shots.
Maulucci stressed that the list of 56 is based on letters sent to the Governor’s office. He said it was possible other groups reached out to another sections of state government like the Vermont Health Department.
The Industrial Miners Association made the request on behalf of miners, while the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association made it for cattle producers.
The Spa at Spruce Peak, the Inn at Essex, Woodstock Inn, Topnotch Resort and the Stoweflake have a request seeking approval for massage therapists and spa technicians, the list noted.
Several groups representing people with medical issues also filed letters. They include those with cancer, ALS, diabetes, visually impaired or blind, and those with home dialysis employees and patients.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores also asked on behalf of pharmacists and store employees.