NPPA Requests the CDC Include Photojournalists in Early COVID-19 Vaccine Phase

The National Press Photographers Association has submitted a request to the CDC that visual journalists be “expressly included” in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations which are planned to be first administered to essential workers.

In a public release, The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) – who claims to be the United States’ leading organization for visual journalists – has submitted the request to the CDC citing that journalists who have direct contact with the public on a regular basis are not only “essential” but also at high risk.

The statement by Mickey H. Osterreicher, General Counsil for the NPPA, states that since visual journalists cannot work from home, they, therefore, are constantly putting their health and lives at risk daily to cover both the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other matters of public concern, including “matters critical to the health and safety of the public and critical to our democracy.”

“These journalists must work in the conditions they find—regardless of the risk,” Osterreicher writes on behalf of the NPAA. “While others have the option to walk away from large crowds, or to avoid members of the public that don’t follow CDC health guidelines, visual journalist repeatedly put their own safety at risk to document what is occurring and inform their communities, large and small. As a result, we have seen visual journalists become infected, hospitalized, and even, unfortunately, succumb to COVID-19.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already recognized front-line news reporters as critical infrastructure workers, and the NPPA says additionally almost every state has issued similar executive orders regarding journalists as essential workers, making them exempt from curfews and other similar restrictions that might be placed on the general public.

According to the CDC’s plan for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the only personnel expressly noted as guaranteed to receive the first round, called Phase 1a, of vaccinations, are healthcare workers. Phase 1b “may include” essential workers, those with high-risk medical conditions, and the elderly. Phase 1b is not finalized and appears subject to evolving government administration strategy.

Venn diagram of Phase 1 COVID-19 vaccination groups, via the CDC.

The CDC estimates that they will need to immunize about 20 million healthcare workers, followed by an estimated 80 million essential workers, 100 million high-risk patients, and 53 million adults over the age of 65.

As the NPAA states, journalists are already classified as essential workers in some cases but are not recognized on the CDC’s list of the estimated non-healthcare essential workers. The NPAA wants them to be expressly called out as eligible alongside workers in food and agriculture, transportation, education, energy, water and wastewater, and law enforcement.

The organization does make a good case for the need, but there are likely going to be multiple requests coming from “essential” workforce organizations that also wish to be included in Phase 1b. Who can actually be included in the initial rollouts will greatly depend on the supply of the vaccine and the strategy of the administration in control when the vaccine is available.

“NPPA respectfully urges the committee to recognize not just the risk that visual journalists face, but the essential benefit that their ability to safely report on their communities provides to their communities as a whole, by providing early access to the vaccine in order to further protect the important work of these individuals in gathering and disseminating news, information and images to the nation and the world.”

The NPPA’s request has been officially posted to the CDC website here.


Image credits: Header photo via the CDC.