By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A 16-member panel of medical experts in California has made its recommendation for who should be included in the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Included in what’s being called Phase 1B are are millions of essential workers — teachers, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, transportation workers, grocery store workers and farm workers — though the exact order has not yet been made clear.

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Regan Alvord, a server at All’acqua in Atwater Village, said she cannot wait to get the vaccine and get back to work.

“Pour it in my mouth,” she said with a laugh.

And while Alvord is hoping to get a vaccine sooner rather than later, she said she thinks grocery store workers should be at the top of that list.

“They’ve kept us all alive, basically,” she said.

And the stress of working with the public has taken a toll on some grocery store employees.

“I’ve had employees scared to come to work and really freak out about dealing with the public so close,” James Gatti, who works at a Pasadena grocery store, said. “I think if there’s something that can help us out and put us at ease and lower the risk factors, that would definitely be helpful.”

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But with millions of people working in those essential industries, and a limited amount of vaccine available until next spring, the question still remains over who should be first in line.

“There is some discrepancy on the prioritization of essential workers,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said.

That “discrepancy” is why she wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials calling for teachers and school personnel to be moved to the front.

“The sooner we can open schools, the better,” she said. “And that’s why I would like to see the teachers at the top of the list.”

But United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, said even if teachers were able to get the vaccine in Phase 1B, the sheer number of educators in the state make the proposition daunting.

“Frontline healthcare workers should be vaccinated first if we want to flatten the curve – especially given the pandemic surge we are seeing now,” the union said in a statement. “Given the limited number of vaccines available to states and the logistical hurdles to distribution for a two-dose vaccine that requires cold-chain distribution, vaccinating the state’s school employees could be a slow process, taking well into the spring at the earliest.
“And even once enough educators are inoculated to consider it ‘safe’ to reopen classrooms, schools will likely need to continue requiring social distancing protocols until community spread has dropped,” the statement continued. “Rolling out the vaccine does not make the pandemic immediately go away. Most public health experts agree that there is no quick fix – we will be wearing masks and keeping our distance and must continue to be careful for probably most of 2021.”

Hahn said she has also heard from dock workers and truckers who would like to be among the first groups to get vaccinated.

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“We have a long way to go,” she said.