By Leader Editor Kara Apel

Our nation’s funeral directors and embalmers, commonly referred to as “last responders,” have been fighting the pandemic on the front lines, risking their lives every day as they serve families.

However, when it came to PPE and other needs, many of you felt overlooked as you worked — and continue to work — tirelessly throughout 2020.

Looking toward the future, the National Funeral Directors Association has been advocating for funeral directors to receive priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine when it is released.

Last week, these efforts paid off when the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) included funeral directors in the highest priority group to receive vaccines. This information is included in NASEM’s report, “Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine.” 

This framework for outlining vaccines is broken down into four phases. The first phase includes three sub-groups, including the following:

  • 1a. High-risk health workers and first responders
  • 1b. People of all ages with comorbid and underlying conditions that put them at significantly higher risk. Older adults living in congregate or overcrowded settings.

When describing the people grouped within Phase 1a, the report notes:

“In addition, there are other frontline health care workers who, if they have uncontrolled exposure to the patients or the public in the course of their work, should be in this initial phase. This group includes those individuals distributing or administering the vaccine—especially in areas of higher community transmission—such as pharmacists, plasma and blood donation workers, public health nurses and other public health and emergency preparedness workers. The committee also includes morticians, funeral home workers and other death care professionals involved in handling bodies as part of this high-risk group.”

Wondering how this report actually affects vaccine distribution? Here’s what NFDA had to say: “The framework released by the NASEM was requested by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. The framework is designed to inform the decisions by health authorities, including the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), as they create and implement national and/or local guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine allocation. (Note: Vaccines will not be mandatory.)”

Want more information? Click here to read the full report.

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