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Queens senator urges state to expand vaccine distribution to include delivery workers, for-hire-vehicle drivers

Angélica Acevedo/QNS

State Senator Jessica Ramos is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand vaccine distribution to include delivery workers and for-hire-vehicle drivers.

Ramos sent a letter to Cuomo and New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on Jan. 11 calling for the two “crucial” groups to be added to the state’s current list of vaccine-eligible New Yorkers.

“In creating a hierarchy of essential workers for the COVID-19 vaccine, two crucial groups have been left out,” Ramos wrote in the letter. “Delivery workers and for-hire-vehicle (FHV) drivers must be included in New York state vaccination phase 1B.”

The state’s 1B phase currently includes individuals 75 and older, first responders, public safety officers, teachers and other school staff, in-person college instructors, childcare workers, public-facing grocery store workers, transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced individuals 65 and older as well as individuals who are immunocompromised will be added to the current vaccine rollout in line with new CDC guidelines, but officials are still working on how to determine what exactly qualifies as immunocompromised.

Ramos emphasized that delivery workers and FHV drivers, including taxi drivers, rideshare drives and charter bus drivers, are not only essential workers but are also at high risk of contracting the virus due to the nature of their work.

“If New York state moves from phase 1A to phase 1B of the vaccination plan as currently written, this critical group of New Yorkers will continue to bear significant health and safety risks, both for themselves and the millions of New Yorkers they interact with on a daily basis,” Ramos wrote.

The Jackson Heights representative wrote that FHV drivers not only provide a necessary service, but also stepped up to deliver more than 6 million meals to the elderly and other vulnerable individuals during the GetFoodNYC Food Delivery Program at the onset of the pandemic.

Ramos added that with commercial drivers regularly transporting clients to and from airports particularly puts them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, including the new variant.

“Public transportation drivers are already rightfully members of group 1B; it is clear that their counterparts deserve the same access to the vaccine,” Ramos wrote.

Meanwhile, Ramos wrote that delivery workers transporting packages and meals help cut down the number of workers in stores and restaurants, but can be exposed to the virus in a matter of minutes.

Nineteen fellow senators signed on to the letter, including John Liu and Leroy Comrie from Queens.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he that while he’s glad the state included individuals who work in grocery stores, he also supports the calls for delivery workers to be added to phase 1B.

“We want to make sure that all the delivery workers who work in those stores get vaccinated,” de Blasio said in his Jan. 12 press conference. “In fact, all delivery workers of all kinds should get vaccinated. They’re coming in contact with so many people. They’re serving us. We depend on them. They deserve the right to be vaccinated.”

For more information on eligibility requirements and vaccine locations, visit New York City’s Vaccine Finder.

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