WASHINGTON — Convenience-store, gas-station and foodservice workers should be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the next phase of inoculations following the elderly and essential workers such as police officers and teachers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended on Dec. 20.
The committee released the prioritized list as guidance for state and local governments in planning their inoculation strategies. The federal recommendations do not set dates for when various demographic or industry groups can expect to get inoculated. Rather, the directive lists the order in which the recipients should be vaccinated.
Early in the pandemic, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) designated convenience, retail fuel and foodservice workers as essential under its Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance and has recently renewed this guidance.
It lists as essential:
- Workers enabling the sale of human food, animal food, pet supply and beverage products at groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores and other retail (including unattended and vending), including staff in retail customer support and information technology support necessary for online orders, pickup and delivery.
- Restaurant and quick-serve food operations, including dark kitchen and food prep centers, carryout and delivery food workers.
- Retail fuel centers such as gas stations and truckstops, and the distribution systems that support them.
“This guidance may be used to support prioritization decisions related to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the early stages when the vaccines are in short supply,” CISA said. “This guidance is referenced in the [CDC] COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations as one framework against which jurisdictions could evaluate essential worker populations for the purposes of vaccine allocation.”
“The CDC Playbook details certain essential critical infrastructure workers and vulnerable populations that will be prioritized for vaccines in the early phases of distribution as well as the plan for the eventual vaccination of the entire population,” CISA said.
The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has been urging the CDC to prioritize the industry’s workforce in their vaccination recommendations, it said. The National Association of Truckstop Operators (NATSO), Energy Marketers of America (EMA) and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) joined NACS in advocating for vaccination for essential workers.
“Our industry’s workers interact with a broad array of other essential workers every day,” the groups said in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, putting themselves at risk. “By necessity, workers in our industry directly interact with customers inside and outside their stores every day. Those customers include health-care workers of all stripes, first responders such as police and firefighters and truckers, without whom food and vaccines could not get to the people who need them. Just like our industry’s workers depend upon all of these other essential workers to protect their well-being, every frontline worker needs our industry ensuring there is fuel and other goods to make sure they can get to and do their jobs.”