More than a third of the workforce at Farmers & Merchants Bank in Miamisburg, Ohio tested positive for COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic, and CEO Shon Myers hopes his most vulnerable employees will be part of the next group of U.S. workers in line to get the vaccine.
"Banks must remain open to meet the financial needs of our customers and society at large," said Myers. "With that mindset, we believe the most helpful thing would be to have the vaccine option, at least for our frontline staff with customer contact."
The Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices, which makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will vote on Sunday on which Americans should receive vaccination shots next after health workers and the most vulnerable populations receive theirs.
Trading groups of banks and credit unions have urged federal officials to add cashiers and loan officers to this group. However, the industry faces a difficult reality: if their employees are given a vaccine, it is up to each individual state.
State health officials turned to recommendations from the CDC and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency to determine which workers are considered essential when planning local business closings earlier this year to contain the spread of the virus. The list is intended to inform the decision about who is next in line to receive vaccine doses, according to several state and federal officials.
A nurse prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at McLeod Health Clarendon Hospitals in Manning, SC on Thursday. The first vaccination shots were given by US hospitals on Monday. It was the first step in a historic quest to immunize millions of people when deaths cross the 300,000 mark.
"Current data shows that many of these workers are at increased risk of developing COVID-19," a CDC spokesman said in a statement on broader primary care. "Early access to vaccines is important not only to protect them but also to maintain the essential services they provide to the US communities."
While frontline bank tellers were added to the top worker list earlier this year, the CDC spokesman has yet to speak about whether bank tellers would be given equal priority in distributing vaccines.
Influential National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine said in a report in October that "Critical workers in high-risk environments – workers who work in industries essential to the functioning of society and at much higher risk of exposure “The second phase of a vaccine rollout.
However, bank employees in particular are only mentioned in a recommendation for the third phase of vaccine recipients. The authors of the paper estimate that approximately 442,000 cashiers will be included in this group.
The American Bankers Association wrote to the CDC on Dec. 10, calling on the recommended next group of vaccine recipients, "Frontline bankers who come into contact with customers, such as cashiers and loan officers." Other workers in the industry, such as B. Dealers are not included in the group's request.
"Ultimately, states will have to consider the CDC recommendations and then decide for themselves where key workers should be included in their vaccination phases," an ABA spokesman said in a statement.
A spokesman for the National Association of State-Insured Credit Unions said the group had also contacted federal officials and "urged them to put credit union employees at the top of the list when distributing Phase 1b vaccines."
While banking regulators have provided some input on earlier designations of bank employees as “essential workers”, there does not appear to be such an impact on when banks can receive vaccines.
"Aside from the recommendations made in the spring [Office for the Protection of Critical Infrastructures] in relation to key employees in critical infrastructures in the financial services sector, we have no discussions with [the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency] or the CDC about prioritizing vaccines guided." An administrative official who asked not to be identified said in an email.
When states will make their decisions remains unclear as they scramble to get the first shots in the arms of more critical health care workers and older candidates.
With some states adding bank tellers to the next group of beneficiaries, it is unclear whether loan officers will be shot at the same time as cashiers, the industry has pointed out. Jennifer Kates, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said she had "seen nothing near this level of detail at this point."
"We are in the process of completing it," said a health ministry spokesman of the state's "Phase 1b" group. "We expect to announce it soon."
Despite the high number of cases, Farmers & Merchants has not been able to track a single COVID-19 transmission in any of its offices. Myers said it was a difficult decision for states to determine the correct order of priority.
"Obviously, we don't want to stand in front of our first responders, healthcare workers, or those at higher risk," Myers said. "With this virus going on for so long and seeming to continue to spread dramatically, even though we mask and distance ourselves, there are concerns about keeping each branch open every day."