ALEXANDRIA, Va.—This week, NACS released a timely and bonus episode of its popular Convenience Matters podcast series to help the industry plan for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout for essential employees.
Anna Ready Blom, director of government relations at NACS, shared the latest information on how the vaccine is being distributed and the prioritization process.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) was initially tasked with making recommendations for which groups of people—such as those who are most at risk for exposure, frontline and essential workers—would be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, Ready Blom noted.
“However, the biggest caveat is that they (ACIP) is not actually deciding who is getting vaccine, that is being determined at the state and local level,” she said, adding that the states are now tasked with determining their individual frameworks for vaccine distribution plans for the CDC’s recommended phase 1-A (health-care professionals, residents of long-term care facilities), 1-B (frontline essential workers, seniors age 75+) and 1-C (all other essential workers, seniors age 65+, those with a high-risk medical condition) priority groups.
Ready Blom explained that the vaccine rollout is far from an easy process, as many states continue to work through the CDC’s guidance.
“Even though we have federal recommendations, every state is looking at them differently, and some states have even passed the baton on to municipalities,” she said. What this means is that retailers operating multiple stores throughout a state could see varying degrees of vaccine guidelines in different cities. “What we’re advising our NACS retail members is to be in touch with their state association partners and to be proactive in terms of reaching out to local officials, health departments and governors.”
Doug Kantor, partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, chimed in that the world is “much messier than anybody can lay out in as many 1-As, Bs and Cs as you want to string together. When this vaccine gets out in broader numbers, it will go to hospitals, pharmacies and health-care providers and others to administer—none of them has a ready list of who are the essential frontline workers in my community,” he explained.
Kantor agreed that it’s important for retailers to be proactive, and then some: “Whether you’re a multi-state operator or a single-store operator, you can reach out proactively to those health-care providers, hospitals and pharmacies” and let them know that your employees are designated frontline essential employees, which could speed up the vaccination process if these locations find themselves with vaccine on hand that is at risk of spoiling due to temperature control, for example.
NACS is working with its state association partners to seek guidance from their governors and state officials to develop templates that show documentation of who the essential workers are within the c-store industry.
“We’re suggesting a template letter from individual convenience store companies that are personalized to their employees and shows they are in fact verified as an essential worker,” Kantor explained. “We’re doing all we can to put these ideas out there to make it easy for governors and health-care providers” to match an ID to the letter, he said.
To listen to the rest of the conversation and guidance as convenience retailers prepare for vaccination distribution in their states, download “Special Episode: Vaccinating Essential Workers.”
Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 200 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 200,000 times by listeners around the world.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.