When Covid-19 vaccines began arriving at hospitals late last year, most agreed that healthcare workers should be the first to get the potentially life-saving jabs, and data about the higher mortality rate among older adults made seniors the obvious next priority group.
But as state and county officials begin broadening the list of people eligible for the vaccine, prioritization has gotten more murky—and controversial—as leaders from just about every industry in which workers can't stay home make a case for being next in line.
The latest is Santa Clara County Superior Court Presiding Judge Theodore Zayner, who last week asked County Executive Jeff Smith to bump court workers up on the list of people eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
His two-page letter, sent Feb. 19, also urged Smith to allow court workers, including judicial officers and county justice partners, to be get on an “on call” list for vaccines that become available on short notice and need to be used before they expire.
Prioritizing those workers “would recognize the essential nature of the court’s work and those who have continued to work courageously and diligently in our courts everyday during the pandemic,” Zayner wrote.
Santa Clara County Superior Court has worked with health officials to implement wholesale changes to its operations and drastically reduce the number of people that walk through their buildings. Even so, court workers often come into contact with people who would be considered “vulnerable,” Zayner said, including those who can't quarantine or follow best practices to reduce the spread of the virus.
Other presiding judges across the country have made similar requests of their local leadership, each noting the high foot-traffic through the courts. Some have had luck in getting a higher prioritization, including court workers in Alameda County, where Zayner said workers are already being offered doses.
County officials did not respond to a request for comment on the letter this week. But already health officials have started expanding access to the vaccine, following a Feb. 15 announcement that more than half of residents 75 years and older, as well as 43.7 percent of those aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of the coveted vaccine.
With that progress in tow, officials said teachers and workers in the food and agriculture industries will be eligible for the vaccine in Santa Clara County starting Sunday. As of March 15, people between 16 and 65 years old with at least one severe health condition will be eligible for a vaccination in the county.