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Who are the "Essential Workers" in Phase 1b & 1c?

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

A Closer Look: Alabama's Vaccine Plan

Photo Credit: Devanath, Pixabay

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks and months about "essential workers". So, who are these "essential workers?" The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) now separates "essential workers" into two groups: "Frontline Essential Workers" and "Other Essential Workers".

Many Alabamians may think that "essential workers" are mostly healthcare and retail workers, but the list of essential workers is actually quite long. In fact, all "essential workers" account for over 50% of the U.S. civilian workforce.

In the United States, this "Frontline Essential Workers" group includes about 30 million workers, or about 18% of the U.S. civilian workforce. Using national averages, The Alabama Free Press (AFP) estimates this group could include about 375,000 Alabama workers. No worker count for this group was found on the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) website. In a December 20th presentation, the ACIP panel listed the following jobs in their "Frontline Essential Workers" group:

First Responders

Education (teachers, support staff and daycare)

Food and Agriculture Manufacturing

Corrections workers

US Postal service workers

Public transit workers

Grocery store workers

In the United States, the "Other Essential Workers" group includes about 57 million workers, or about 35% of the U.S. civilian workforce. AFP estimates this group could include over 700,000 Alabama workers. Again, no worker count was found for this group on the ADPH website. The ACIP presentation showed "Other Essential Workers" consists of the following jobs:

Transportation and Logistics

Food Service

Shelter and Housing (construction)


IT & Communication




Public Safety (Engineers)

Water & Wastewater

In November, Alabama released an "Interim COVID-19 Vaccination Plan". This Alabama plan and the ACIP presentation cited above both reference the critical infrastructure workers list developed by the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. The "essential workers" lists originated from their 17 pages of job descriptions. These jobs include "front line news reporters", "studio, and technicians for news gathering, reporting, and publishing news", "weather forecasters", "plumbers", "electricians", "exterminators", "landscapers", workers involved with "residential and commercial real estate services", "veterinarians", "workers in animal shelters", and "workers in laundromats, laundry services, and dry cleaners". AFP could not find any statements by either ACIP, or the state of Alabama, that these positions were not a part of their "essential workers" lists.

The Plan has Evolved

In early December, ADPH released the "Alabama COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Plan". In this release, there was no Phase 1c listed, just 1a and 1b. There was no specific mention of people over 65 years old, unless they had "comorbidities" or "underlying conditions". Phase 4, the last phase, did state "persons who do not require contact with potential sources of Covid-19" which could include many people over 65. Shortly after it was released, some TV media outlets displayed graphs showing people 65 & older were include in Phase 1c.

In a December 23rd update of the Alabama vaccine allocation plan document, people 75 years and older were added to the Phase 1b group, which was recommended by ACIP. The Alabama 1c group now includes "persons age 65 to 74", and "essential workers" who were "not recommended for vaccination in Phase 1b". The recent plan shows no Phase 3 or 4 which were in the initial plan, just Phases 1a, 1b, 1c, and Phase 2.

In Alabama, AFP estimates there are about 750,000 people age 65 and older, of which about 300,000 are age 75 and above. In contrast, AFP estimates that all "essential workers" in Alabama could exceed one million workers.

Updated: (January 25, 2021) Photo credit link change


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