U.S. Broadens COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

NACS provides resources as retailers look to vaccinate their essential workforce.

January 13, 2021

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Trump Administration yesterday released new guidelines urging the states to go ahead and vaccinate anyone 65 and older or younger people with underlying health conditions now, a departure from earlier guidance that prioritized health-care and frontline workers and other groups for a COVID-19 vaccine.

What’s more, the Trump Administration also agreed to release millions of doses held in reserve for the second of the two-shot regime so that more Americans can receive the first dose of one of the two approved vaccines against COVID-19.

More than 25.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed in the U.S., but only 8.9 million Americans have vaccinated so far, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Individual states, and in some cases local governments, are finalizing decisions for which categories of Americans should be prioritized in line for the vaccine. The federal government  recommended that frontline essential workers be prioritized in the second phase, and all other essential workers be prioritized in the third phase, along with individuals who are 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions. State officials are still determining how the vaccine will actually be distributed, and as part of that, how members of essential industries will prove their employment status.

In December, the CDC recommended that frontline essential workers be in Phase 1-B of vaccine distribution, just behind health-care professionals and residents of long-term care facilities, and the agency recommended that all other essential workers be in Phase 1-C.

In defining “frontline essential workers,” the agency included the food and agriculture sector as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, which includes convenience store workers. However, in its recommendations, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made it clear that the definitions and categories were open for interpretation by states and local governments, who are the ultimate decisionmakers.

As state health officials determine their vaccination plans, a key question that remains is how essential workers will prove their employment qualifies them as a frontline essential worker. To help navigate this, NACS provided our state association affiliates with a letter to send their governors asking for guidance on how frontline essential workers can demonstrate their status and distribution priority. In addition, given that state governments may be slow to make decisions on this, NACS shared a sample letter that member companies could consider using in the event that no guidance is forthcoming. It is important to note that this letter is a resource but is not legally binding.

NACS encourages retailers as they wait on guidance from health officials to be proactive and reach out to local hospitals and pharmacies to see if they have vaccines for essential workers. To hear more from NACS, download Episode No. 265 of Convenience Matters: “Special Episode: Vaccinating Essential Workers.”

For information on state vaccination plans, MultiState maintains a COVID-19 State and Local Policy Dashboard.

Coronavirus Resources

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.