Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so  you don’t have to. This week’s topic: the COVID-19 vaccine for essential workers, when and where it’s available.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Essential Workers – When and Where is it Available?

With several vaccines in production, it’s looking more and more likely that select individuals will begin receiving the vaccine before the year is out.  These groups, chosen based off priority lists approved by the Center for Disease Control, will likely be comprised of those most at risk including healthcare workers, people living in long-term facilities, and then other essential workers. With this information in mind, it begs the question: who exactly is considered essential? 

The answer to that question is a bit uncertain. Not all states follow the same pandemic guidelines, meaning definitions of “essential” may differ from state to state. For most, essential workers are those in the following industries:  

  • Healthcare  
  • Energy 
  • Childcare 
  • Water and wastewater 
  • Agriculture and food production 
  • Critical retail (i.e. grocery stores, hardware stores, mechanics) 
  • Critical trades (construction workers, electricians, plumbers, etc.) 
  • Transportation 
  • Nonprofits and social service organizations 

Though considered essential, “food production” – i.e., restaurants – have been struggling since the pandemic picked up speed earlier this year. In spite of demand, various issues like lack of funding and closures/restrictions have made it all but impossible for owners to continue operating without some sort of help. Because of these tensions, restaurants and restaurants groups have been challenging their local governments to either provide funding or loosen restrictions, with the overall message being “if we’re essential, then treat us like it.”  

If asked in 2019 if restaurants were essential, the answer would probably be no. But this year has taught us something different. Our country has proven that we value our ability to go out to eat or order delivery from our favorite local spot. Although dine-in services are struggling, quick service restaurants and delivery platforms continue to see an increase in their revenue.  

Recent studies show that most consumers still aren’t 100% comfortable dining in at restaurants but once they are, they’re eager to return. Because of that, it’s likely that foodservice venues will experience a surge when restrictions lift. As a hands-on industry where workers are interacting closely with guests, it’s safe to say that ‘food production’ is a good place to start when deciding who gets the vaccine for essential workers.

The COVID-19 vaccine for essential workers is crucial for the future of the hospitality industry. But right now, there are still so many questions surrounding the priority lists. Obviously, healthcare workers will be the first group of essentials to receive the vaccine. After that, how will the CDC decide what essential workers are most deserving? Further, once it’s available, will the vaccine be required in order to attend work? Unfortunately, we don’t have these answers yet, but once we do it will allow us to better understand what to expect heading into 2021 especially as it relates to the hospitality industry.