Beleaguered in the pandemic and thrust into the spotlight by the 2020 election, the United States Postal Service now finds itself competing for its share of the vaccine.
The Postal Service has endured tumultuous months amid a significant increase in online shopping, understaffing, government funding issues and an explosion of mail-in ballots during a contentious election. Thousands of postal workers have contracted the coronavirus, and more than 150 have died. Still, fewer than half of the states across the country — at least 22 — have begun administering shots to Postal Service workers, at least in some counties, even as they rapidly expand access to more groups of people, according to a New York Times survey.
Postal workers are among several categories of essential workers that a committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that states prioritize early. In a letter penned to the Biden administration in January, Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, noted that “numerous states have not followed this recommendation and have chosen to place postal workers further down in the order of those with early access to the vaccine.”
Postal workers might not have to wait too much longer to be vaccinated. On Thursday, President Biden promised to bring cohesion to the national rollout, directing states to make every adult eligible by May 1, and announcing a series of initiatives to ramp up the pace of vaccinations.
Postal workers must navigate a patchwork of policies to determine whether they can get a shot. In Virginia, they can get the vaccine along with private mail carriers. And Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas announced that postal workers in his state could get the vaccine as of Monday. However, they are not yet eligible in Maine, Texas and Washington.
In a live video last month, Mr. Dimondstein lamented the lack of a collective government response on behalf of the Postal Service.
“It’s chaos,” he said. “You’ve got to find your own way.”
In the past month alone, the rate of U.S. vaccinations has ramped up over 50 percent, to an average of about 2.5 million shots a day as of Saturday, up from an average of about 1.6 million shots a day on Feb. 13, according to a New York Times database. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that about 68.9 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 36.9 million people who have been fully vaccinated.