Funeral directors seek priority in COVID-19 vaccine line

    Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

    Nearly 11,000 Ohioans have died from COVID-19. The funeral directors handling logistics of their earthly remains are asking for priority in the distribution of scarce vaccinations.

    In a Friday news release, Ohio Funeral Directors Association Executive Director Melissa Sullivan said funeral directors are exposed when they prepare bodies for “disposition” and greet those attending services — which are not subject to attendance limits.

    “When retrieving those who died as a result of the coronavirus from our hospitals and nursing homes, these men and women in the death care industry are also on the front lines of this pandemic,” she said. “They are putting themselves in harm’s way.”

    The association says it represents nearly 85% of Ohio’s funeral homes.

    She asked DeWine to put funeral directors, embalmers and their staff in a list with group 1B — which currently includes the elderly, the ill, teachers, certain first responders and others.

    The OFDA release cites a Dec. 31 comment from William Wappner, president of the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, relayed to DeWine.

    “It is imperative that the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Board notify you of the possibility that the public may be endangered with a partial collapse of the death care system due to sickness of staff or quarantine and overwhelming surge in deaths,” he stated.

    Both the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices recommend prioritizing death care workers, grouping them with health care workers.

    A DeWine spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

    About 627,000 Ohioans have started the two-dose vaccination process. Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato said Monday that Ohio has received about 1.15 million doses from the federal government, not counting those used to vaccinate residents and staff at long term care facilities.

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