Foreign Policy

On the State Division, some have been involved about political officers skipping the road to get the COVID-19 vaccine

An unexpected surplus of COVID-19 vaccines at the U.S. State Department sparked frenzied competition to protect employees from the virus first, fueling suspicions among career workers that political loyalists were trying to cross the line when they did Prepared To Quit Their Vaccine Jobs – Prioritizing Before Career Employees With Underlying Conditions.

The State Department vigorously denied playing favorites, claiming it was distributing the vaccines to staff performing operations vital to the functioning of America's diplomatic mission. But the rollout – which was marked by a mad rush for candidate identification – enraged career diplomats in some offices, who said they had been largely kept in the dark until reporters and congressional staff started asking questions.

Two State Department officials said senior political figures, including Pamela Pryor, the acting deputy secretary of state in the Bureau of International Organizational Affairs, and Eric Ueland, the acting undersecretary of state for civil security, democracy and human rights, had either received or should receive the vaccine. A State Department spokesman initially declined to comment, saying the Data Protection Act prohibits the disclosure of information about the vaccination status of employees without their consent. However, after this story was published, the spokesman said that Pryor declined and did not accept the vaccine's offer.

"Today's confusion over the sudden, unexpected availability of vaccines is causing bureaus to strive to create prioritized lists," a US official told Foreign Policy in a text message, describing the rollout as disorganized and arbitrary. "No clarity as to why recordings are suddenly available, how many or why no planning has been carried out for a list of prioritized employees, including those with pre-existing conditions."

The urge to vaccinate America's diplomatic corps comes at a time when there is growing distrust between political officials in the Trump administration and career workers. The government believes the government has ignored public health guidelines that require social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Those concerns were compounded by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's decision to host a series of mostly indoor holiday celebrations with hundreds of invitations to U.S. officials, foreign diplomats, and party allegiances – and an initial plan to vaccinate White House staff online first Vaccination round.

President Donald Trump reversed White House policies after a storm of criticism. The State Department holiday celebrations drew dozens, not hundreds, of guests. The department insisted that it introduce health precautions including masks and social distancing requirements with the parties.

This week, the heads of State Department offices sent out emails informing staff of the vaccine excess and saying the doses would be distributed to key State Department workers – those who travel or have to work at Foggy Bottom headquarters.

"We received news that it is possible at short notice to have the first of the two-part Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines administered tomorrow morning," Robert Ramey, deputy director of the Global Criminal Justice Office, wrote to staff on Tuesday. "I'm curious to see who might be interested and qualify."

Pompeo also stated in a memo that the additional vaccines would go to key workers. Other employees with underlying illnesses would have to wait.

Department officials have decided in the past few days that the heads of each office should decide how best to distribute the extra doses among their employees, officials said. From there, some high-ranking officials offered vaccines to employees who had to go to the office or who may have been deemed more risky.

However, several officials said the lack of communication with staff about the criteria for firing the shots raised concerns that the vaccines were reserved for loyalists.

“Ultimately, these 30-year-olds who are leaving in a few weeks get it, while colleagues with medical problems or vulnerable family members now have to wait. Said another official familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity.

"It is the irony that these politicians who go to the office as usual and flaunt the mask rules are the ones in a hurry to get them first," added the official. "I find that despicable."

Officials suggested that the Bureau of Legislative Affairs originally intended to restrict distribution to officials in the department's front office, where most of the political representatives are based. Those affected increased when many career workers were not notified that a new vaccine inventory had become available.

A State Department spokesman denied the preferential treatment allegations, saying that not a single political representative in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs would receive a vaccine at the current round.

"It is categorically wrong that political officers have been or are given preferential treatment, and in fact no political officer in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs receives any of the vaccines in the first round," the spokesman said in a prepared statement to Foreign Policy Statement. "Claims to the contrary are completely wrong."

"The department has been able to break down its initial allocation into categories of employees performing key roles at increased exposure risk," added the spokesman. "Leadership continues to consult the data to help formulate a fair and equitable dispensing method that balances vaccine availability with the risk to our workforce in every postal and home facility."

In the weeks leading up to the vaccine disbursement, the State Department expected an initial batch of more than 13,000 doses of Pfizer, which would be enough to vaccinate about 6,500 people. (The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots, a primer dose, followed by a booster shot.) By mid-December, they had received fewer than 1,000 doses, officials said.

The department prioritized the vaccination of medical and diplomatic security personnel, as well as personnel stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and other high-risk locations, “due to local conditions that increase the disease burden and the challenges of providing medical support services in These areas can aggravate locations, ”said a December 15 memo from Brian Bulatao, Secretary of State for Management.

"We are working closely with Operation Warp Speed ​​(OWS) and the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure the Department receives the requested vaccine allocation at an expedited time to support mission-critical work at home and abroad support, "he added on the operation to accelerate the development and diffusion of COVID-19 vaccines. "We expect to receive vaccines gradually over the next few months, so we need to prioritize distribution."

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