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Federal COVID vaccine guidance puts high priority on supplement biz

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Each state has its own prioritization schedule, but the best federal guidance pegs supplement industry workers as essential and a high priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Workers in the supplement manufacturing and retailing industries have a relative leg up when it comes to priority in receiving vaccines against COVID-19, according to federal recommendations.

People employed in the supplement industry are considered “essential,” falling under the broader food or beverage manufacturing classifications, and are included in the second-highest priority phase behind only essential health care workers.

The list of industries and their place in the vaccine priority line was created by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), whose members were appointed by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

ACIP has recommended phased allocation of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. while vaccine supply is limited. Food and beverage industry workers, including those in the supplement business, are considered frontline essential workers and recommended to receive vaccines in “Phase 1b.” Phase 1a includes health care personnel and long-term care facility residents, and Phase 1b includes people older than 75 as well as frontline essential workers.

ACIP describes frontline essential workers as “the subset of essential workers likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to co-workers.”

The priority list is intended to help state and local officials and organizations prepare for the allocation of initially limited COVID-19 vaccine supply.

While ACIP’s recommendations were offered in December 2020, and most states began following those guidelines, one of the last actions of the Trump administration was to have the Department of Health and Human Services issue new guidance to states, recommending they open vaccine availability to all people ages 65 and older and to those under 65 with high-risk medical conditions. That has created a complicated vaccine rollout picture nationwide, though.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) shows that many states have moved to redefine their priority populations in the wake of the new guidance being issued. The KFF analysis includes a state-by-state look at priority groups, current phase stages and where frontline essential workers are in the vaccine pecking order.

The result has been a jumble of vaccine rollout regulations that vary by state. WebMD offers a list with links for each state that can connect people interested in the vaccine with the status and parameters of their particular state.

The American Herbal Products Association also maintains a web page with the latest information on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic as well as possible impacts on the herbal products industry.

With each state determining vaccine priority regulations, the Natural Products Association has written letters to the governors of all 50 states urging them to declare health food stores as essential in their states.

“For the millions of people who rely on stores that retail dietary supplements, this uncertainty is troubling and could cause such stores to close unnecessarily, and not allow their front-line workers to have access to vaccination,” the letters, signed by NPA President and CEO Dan Fabricant, read.

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