Handling the organization, distribution, and overall logistics of the COVID-19 vaccine is a complicated nightmare. Thankfully, each state has a plan in place. One state’s plan includes a surprising choice on who gets it first.
Each state in the U.S. has its own plan for doling out the COVID-19 vaccine. Those at the top of the list include obvious professionals like healthcare workers and emergency responders. But in Vermont, that first wave of vaccines will also go to ski patrollers.
This past week, Vermont changed its policies regarding priority for vaccine distribution. The state is currently distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to “health care workers likely to be exposed/treat Covid-19 patients,” according to its guidelines.
So what’s the change? Ski patrollers now count as healthcare workers. The decision sparked controversy, but Vermont health officials argue the move makes sense.
“They still fit the category of being a first responder who’s directly in contact with a human being who is often in a vulnerable situation, and for a long time, because of the nature of the work they do,” Mark Levine from the Vermont Department of Health told Vermont Ski and Ride.
And ski patrollers at resorts, including Mount Snow, Killington, Stratton, and more, have already been vaccinated, Unofficial Networks reported.
We looked into the distribution timeline in several other states to see if this protocol is common nationwide.
Vaccine for Ski Patrollers
While Vermont is the only state to explicitly include ski patrollers in its first-wave eligibility, a handful of other states’ guidelines leave it open to some interpretation.
Colorado’s first phase of the vaccine distribution will go to those working directly with COVID-19 patients, as well as “health care workers with less direct contact with COVID-19 patients and EMS workers.” Firefighters, police, and emergency response personnel will also receive vaccines in the first wave.
And according to the Steamboat Pilot, the next wave “will likely also include Steamboat Ski Patrol.”
Various news sources have also reported that patrollers and emergency workers in ski towns like Vail, Loveland, and Jackson Hole could receive the vaccine as part of the initial doses.
California, Utah, New York, and Massachusetts all have similar guidelines for first responders. In many of these states, the eligibility requirements have more firm guidelines.
Current EMT paramedic certifications or employer-issued ID from an eligible first responder or emergency organization are all that’s needed to qualify for the vaccine.
In many cases, ski patrollers work as first responders, often in rural areas. And sometimes even in hospital settings.
The National Ski Patrol published this statement in December 2020:
“We understand that most if not all of these plans will use CDC suggested prioritization and make the vaccine available to front-line health care workers. The second and third levels of distribution [include] other responders, police, fire, EMS, search and rescue, and others who would respond to community incidents involving COVID-19 patients.”
Really, it all comes down to when the vaccine doses are available in a geographical area.
In the meantime, resort visitors should remember to follow posted guidelines, wear a mask — and perhaps thank the local ski workers. Because if there’s an emergency, they’re out there to help, vaccinated or not.