Associations working to clarify frontline bank employees’ position in COVID-19 vaccination queue

This morning, the Alliance of State Bankers Associations, working through and with the ABA, received news about COVID-19 vaccination priorities.

“Earlier today the Center for Disease Control and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on the prioritization of those who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phases 1b and 1c,” said Adrian Beverage, OBA’s incoming president & CEO. “Two changes from the original recommendation were made:

1. American people aged 75 and older will be moved to Phase 1b.
2. The CDC and AICP changed the terms for “essential employees” by adding “Frontline.”

“The original language simply said, ‘Essential workers;’ now it’s been narrowed to ‘Frontline Essential Workers,'” Beverage said. “Nothing is final until it’s accepted by the CDC Director of course, but we’re told that’s essentially a pro forma exercise since the vote was 13-1. That’s the good news.

“Unfortunately, the committee went on and tried to further narrow the group who will be qualified for 1b status by attempting to clarify who’s ‘essential’ and who’s ‘Frontline Essential.’ They list ‘Finance’ in the ‘Other Essential’ category. In terms of priorities, that ‘clarification’ puts us in Phase 1c. As a practical matter, this decision means we must collectively reach out to Oklahoma health officials and make the case that bank tellers and loan officers are, at a minimum, ‘Frontline Essential Workers.'”

Beverage pointed out it’s uncertain if the State of Oklahoma will now update its own vaccination sequencing.

“Unless the State updates its list of priorities, bank employees will have to wait a little longer to receive their shots,” he said. “That’s not what we’ve been aiming at, and we’ll continue to make an effort to persuade state officials to bump bank tellers and loan officers up to the 1b level. We are, of course, mindful of the potential for push-back from the media and others, and we will keep that in mind as we develop the right message.”

The ABA is similarly concerned about push-back from the media, and is considering the following response:

“We are disappointed the CDC’s advisory committee did not recommend frontline bank employees be considered for Phase 1B vaccinations along with other “frontline essential workers” from other industries. This limited group of dedicated bank employees, which includes bank tellers and loan officers, engage directly with the public and are most at risk of infection. They are especially critical in communities where customers prefer and need in-person banking. We urge state public health officials to allow for vaccination of these workers at the earliest opportunity to ensure the continued safe operation of the banking system. In the meantime, America’s banks will continue to do everything they can to prioritize the health and safety of employees and customers.”