Saying its drivers are part of the nation's critical transportation infrastructure, Uber Technologies (UBER 0.22%) wants the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to declare them essential non-healthcare workers. The designation would push them toward the front of the line for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

In a preview of the fight to come as numerous industries clamor for early access, Uber said in a letter to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, letting ride-share drivers leapfrog to the front of the line would allow them to "continue to play their essential role while also reducing the risk that they may inadvertently contract, or possibly transmit, the virus."

Person receiving an injection in their upper arm.

Image source: Getty Images.

First in line

It became clear during the early months of the pandemic that being declared "essential" was vital for survival. It allowed businesses to remain open while others were forced to close, a decision that resulted in dozens of major retailers being forced into bankruptcy.

With "essential" workers allowed to get early dibs on the vaccine, Reuters reports trade groups for agricultural products, consumer goods, food production, and trucking industries are lining up to seek preferential treatment for their workers.

The government estimates as many as 20 million people could be vaccinated in the next few weeks, but it would take another six months or so before the vast majority of Americans could receive the treatment.

Homeland Security has already declared ride-share drivers to be part of the critical infrastructure workforce, along with taxi drivers, car rental employees, and workers in telecommunications, information technology, transportation and logistics, and energy. However, the agency says its pronouncement is only advisory in nature.

The CDC is scheduled to review the vaccine from Pfizer (PFE 0.76%) and BioNTech (BNTX 0.43%) next week, which Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant, says is more than 90% effective.