Water Operator Vaccination Update

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By Margaret Golden

When the public thinks about “essential employees” they typically picture healthcare workers, first responders, or even grocery store workers. The water operators that work to keep our water safe and protect public health are also essential, currently classified in CDC’s phase 1C category for vaccine prioritization

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently hosted a webinar discussing COVID-19 vaccinations for essential workers, specially those who work in the water sector. Since the vaccine is new and currently in limited supply, the CDC created a list of “essential workers” with various levels of priority in order to ensure that those who are most vulnerable would be able to get the vaccination first. These recommended categories, including water sector professionals as phase 1C,  were developed by the CDC with help from the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices). These guidelines were set up by the CDC to serve as recommendations, as the ultimate timeline decision lies within your local jurisdiction.

Each state has created its own specialized action plan depending on its need for sub-prioritization. For example, areas where large outbreaks have occurred are being prioritized as well as workers with a history of illness. There are also potential exceptions to the timeline. For example, if you are someone that works in a state, county, or local jurisdiction that is different from the one where you live you might be able to get vaccinated where you work. If you are unsure about where you stand in the timeline, you should contact your local public health department.

With COVID-19 vaccines developed in record time, there is understandably some hesitation surrounding it. However, after being tested on a wide range of adults from diverse backgrounds and after being approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the CDC has determined the vaccine to be safe and effective. Two vaccines are currently available in the United States, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA technology, meaning that the mRNA instructs the body to produce a harmless piece of the spike protein so that your body can create the antibodies to fight against them. This means that the vaccine cannot give you the virus because there is no live virus in the ingredients. You should also still get the vaccine even if you have had COVID-19 because it can still help prevent you from getting it a second time.  

As we approach the one year anniversary of the first lockdown in the United States, we are lucky to have a vaccine available to protect the workers who ensure our water is safe to drink. When it’s your turn, WaterOperator.org encourages all water sector professionals to be vaccinated to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. If you have concerns, we recommend contacting and following the advice of your local health department or personal physician.

Lastly, it is important to remember that getting vaccinated is just one of many efforts to be made; we all also need to continue to wear masks, wash hands, stay six feet apart, and avoid crowds, whether you have been vaccinated or not. 

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