ALBANY (TNS) — Although coronavirus vaccine supply to New York has increased and the state is working to expand opportunities for getting the shot, there remains a subset of public-facing government workers who are ineligible.
Highway and sewage treatment plant workers, Department of Motor Vehicles staff and county clerk employees providing legal and other essential administrative services are among sectors that often times provide an essential service to New Yorkers but are not explicitly included in the state’s 1B phase of vaccination.
Putnam County Clerk Michael C. Bartolotti, who is also president of the New York Association of County Clerks, said including these public employees in the latest vaccination phase will help ensure they can continue to provide essential services without interruption.
”Throughout the pandemic our staff have diligently reported to work to serve the public, providing critical DMV and legal services to the people of New York,” Bartolotti said in a letter sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo from the county clerk association. “I would argue that their exposure exceeds many whose occupations are already included on the 1b list such as court personnel, public safety dispatchers and in-person college instructors and is at least equal to public-facing grocery store employees.”
Vaccinations have faced a variety of hurdles, from a limited supply of vaccines that has caused long wait times for scheduling an appointment, to general confusion over who is eligible for the shot that has created a patchwork approach to inoculating New Yorkers. State officials have primarily placed blame for the backlog on the limited supply and the state’s large population, and have urged residents to remain patient and not to show up to a vaccination clinic without an appointment.
Roughly 10 million New Yorkers are currently eligible to receive the vaccine. So far, just over 3 million residents have received both doses of the COVID-19 shot, according to the governor’s office.
Various sectors and special interest groups sought to be included in earlier vaccination phases, and there have been some adjustments made to include people with comorbidities, as well as elderly inmates in state prisons.
A county clerk in Western New York who spoke on the condition of anonymity said these employees are providing essential services that could be shut down if employees get sick.
”We know the supply is short and there are lots of issues, but it can definitely be frustrating when you see the expansion of the list and there seems to still be exclusions,” the clerk said.
Whether someone working at a local DMV office is considered a “public-facing employee” depends on where you live and wind up scheduling a vaccination appointment, government employees said.
Employees may schedule an appointment believing they are eligible for the vaccine, but upon arriving, are told they do not qualify, the Western New York clerk said.
The Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA) and the Public Employees Federation (PEF) both have members who are in public-facing roles but are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Union leaders said they believe all employees should be able to get the vaccine.
”CSEA believes all of the government workers we represent doing essential work in public-facing roles should be eligible for vaccination as quickly as possible, and we’ve been working with the governor’s office and local government leaders around the state to get more workers added to the eligibility list,” CSEA spokesman Mark Kotzin said. “We recognize, however, that getting more workers on the list is not going to solve everyone’s frustrations, when there’s still not enough vaccine to go around.”