Advocates push for truckers to get vaccinated earlier

HOUSTON (KTRK) - Marlow Rodgers, a trucker from Alabama, has been working nonstop during the pandemic and says it hasn’t been easy.

“I just try to keep my mask on and just stay focused because it’s hard here,” Rodgers said. “It’s hard to find a bathroom. You can’t bathe, shower.”

He says he’s disappointed in the way the government handled the pandemic when it comes to the trucking industry.

“I just think they just want this stuff to go where it’s got to go and the world to keep turning, but they don’t care about the people that is driving like us,” he said.

Rodgers said he feels truckers should have been given the option to get the vaccine from the start.

Dr. Michael Lemke is an assistant professor of health and human behavior at the University of Houston-Downtown, and a former truck driver himself. He agrees that the trucking industry has been overlooked.

“To me, it was shocking to see how much we have relied on truck drivers the past year and essentially excluded from the first phase and the second phase,” Lemke said.

In Lemke’s recent article for the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, he says not only are truckers helping to distribute the vaccines, but they’re also at a higher risk of getting it and transmitting it nationwide.

“We don’t know what their risk of spread is, but if a driver is sick, they are going a long way, potentially encountering a lot of different people, and then they go home,” Lemke said. “What’s especially scary on top of that is the fact that drivers don’t have a lot of options to self-quarantine on the road.”

Lemke says he hopes his research helps drivers like Rodgers gain recognition for their service during the pandemic but also receive the support they need, especially right now.

“In my view this is a critical period where policy can be potentially influenced,” Lemke said.

He says drivers need to be top of mind when it comes to distributing the vaccine in the arms of those who want it.

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