Funeral directors seek vaccine access

The Ohio Funeral Directors Association (OFDA) is strongly urging Governor DeWine and leaders in his administration to ensure Ohio’s funeral directors and their employees be given immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) and CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) both recommended that death care workers be placed into Phase 1A for vaccine allocation.

According to an Oct. 2, 2020 publication by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), “morticians, funeral home workers, and other death care professionals involved in handling bodies” were to be included in the highest-priority Phase 1A Population of High-Risk Health Workers, along with health care clinicians and staff and first responders.

OFDA Executive Director Melissa Sullivan said: “We appreciate and acknowledge the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine and his administration in dealing with this devastating pandemic. We recognize that physicians, nurses, long term care residents and staff deserve first priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. However, 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 line of this pandemic. They are putting themselves in harm’s way daily.

Although some protection is provided through PPE, exposure continues as they prepare bodies for disposition, console surviving family members, and greet those attending services. Unlike most other public gatherings, Ohio placed no limits on attendance at funerals, forcing funeral home personnel to deal with large numbers of attendees, some of which do not comply with masking or social distancing requirements.

While funeral directors do comply with CDC guidelines and state orders, the potential for being a hub for the spread of this virus is genuinely concerning. Just as has been done in every other state surrounding Ohio, and 38 states in total, we strongly urge the governor to correct this oversight as soon as possible and amend Phase 1B to include funeral directors, embalmers, and their staff for immediate vaccine distribution.”

Editor’s note — This letter was submitted by both the Turner Funeral Homes and Ebright Funeral Homes.