A panel advising the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to recommend that workers in the food and agriculture sectors -- including fishermen and seafood processing workers -- be among the second round of recipients prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 that health care and long-term care facility workers be prioritized in the distribution of the vaccine, in what the group called "Phase 1a."
The panel additionally recommended that food and agriculture workers be in the second group -- Phase 1b. The group includes manufacturing, foodservice, first responders, educators and transportation workers.
"Frontline seafood workers should rightfully be near the front of the line for vaccines," NFI President John Connelly said.
"All Americans depend on these women and men to harvest and process healthy foods. As the federal agencies and state Governors develop their vaccine plans, they should protect those who labor to feed America’s families during this pandemic. Governments need to move from calling these folks heroes to protecting them with vaccines."
Seafood processing facilities and vessels are categorized as part of America's critical infrastructure within the agriculture and food sector. That classification allowed workers and crewmen to continue to work during the course of pandemic shutdowns.
The CDC advisory panel considered a range of factors in its prioritization recommendations, determining that the maximum number of lives saved would result from prioritizing health
As of Nov. 30, there were at least 243,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases among health care professionals, with 858 deaths. Long-term care facility residents and staff accounted for 6 percent of all COVID-19 cases and 40 percent of deaths in the US.
An estimated 21 million people work in the healthcare field in the United States, while 87 million workers are classified as essential, but not in the health care field.
The next groups prioritized for vaccination will be adults with high-risk medical conditions, followed by adults over 65 years of age.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, but in particular the United States.
“In the time it takes us to have this meeting, 180 people will have died of Covid-19,” Beth Bell, a member of the advisory committee, said during Tuesday's meeting, according to CNN.