American Airlines and other aviation groups say their employees are critical to distributing a vaccine and should be among the first groups to receive it.
American is concerned that North Carolina’s 140-page vaccination distribution plan “fails to specifically reference or provide estimates for airport/airline/cargo workers in vaccine allocation.”
Tracy Montross, who works in governmental affairs for the airline, wrote to state officials last week that “this simply must be an oversight, given the critical role of aviation/cargo employees to essential passenger travel and the supply chain.”
And on Thursday, a group of 18 airline unions and organizations — such as the Cargo Airline Association — sent a letter to the CDC. They also pushed for higher priority, after health care workers and residents in long-term living facilities.
They wrote that the vaccine distribution effort will be complex and that frontline aviation workers will be needed to distribute it.
North Carolina’s vaccine plan does include transportation workers. But it only specifically mentions bus drivers, passenger vehicle drivers and motor vehicle operators.
State pharmacist Dr. Amanda Fuller Moore, who is managing North Carolina’s vaccine distribution, said that just because airline workers weren’t mentioned, that doesn’t mean they’re not included. But she didn’t say how soon they would be vaccinated.
“We can’t list everyone specifically on there,” Moore said. “So please be thinking about those groups that keep us going, those groups at the highest risk for exposure and those groups at the highest risk for complications.”
And state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, said it’s still too early to know how quickly different groups will be able to receive the vaccine.
“We don’t even know how much vaccine we’re going to be receiving from the federal government in Week 2 (of vaccine supplies),” Cohen said. North Carolina expects about 85,000 doses of the vaccine in its initial shipment next week.
Cohen said several panels of experts helped decide who should get vaccine priority.
“It all starts with health care workers that are working directly with folks who have COVID-19,” she said. “Again, it’s either the clinical staff, the cleaning staff, anyone that’s coming into contact with folks who have this virus.”
After health care workers, the state’s vaccine plan prioritizes people who live or work in long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
Cohen expects getting those first two groups vaccinated will likely last into January.
The state’s vaccine plan has five phases. Health-care workers are in Phase 1, and Phase 1b includes frontline workers with two or more chronic conditions. Some of those frontline workers include people who work in transportation.
Most transportation workers are in Phase 2.
American Airlines employs more than 12,000 people in Charlotte, home to its second-largest hub after Dallas-Fort Worth.
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