Front line retail workers receive Covid vaccinations on site: "They have done so much for us during this pandemic"

One way to distribute Covid-19 vaccinations is for the vaccinations to go to the recipients instead of recipients going to vaccination locations. This line of thought is being presented as a way to ease what is often described as inequities in underserved communities to access vaccinations. This idea is being used by retailers in some cities.

We are all grateful for front-line workers who have continued to do their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. Emergency responders, medical care providers, doctors, and nurses all have received an outpouring of thanks from those they serve. Not so often acknowledged are the other front-line workers – those who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail outlets that sell everyday necessities. Even for those of us who use delivery services as we wait to be fully vaccinated, retail workers are needed to stock the stores and sell the goods. Special shout-out to all the gig workers, too, who deliver everything to our front doors.

Many front-line workers are people who live in underserved communities. They are dependent on showing up for their jobs in order to bring home a paycheck. Their work schedules are not likely to be flexible enough to devote the time needed to get a Covid vaccination in many places. Some retailers are taking advantage of growing supplies of vaccinations available and bringing them to their employees. For example, three of North Texas’ largest retail companies – Kroger, Tom Thumb, and Target have partnered up with Dallas County’s health department and Parkland Health & Hospital System to give these workers vaccinations.

Beginning this week, the health department and hospital are directly allocating nearly 10,000 doses to the stores to vaccinate workers who are also Dallas County residents.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the partnership will allow the county to vaccinate thousands of its most vulnerable residents efficiently at their job.

“We need to get them inoculated because they have done so much for us during this pandemic,” Jenkins said. “And you know, when they’re all inoculated and safe, that makes all the shoppers safe.”

It’s a good idea. These workers have waited while other front-line workers went to the head of the line for vaccinations. They are exposed to large amounts of people each week. And customers are exposed to them. This can offer them a sense of relief when they are fully vaccinated. In Texas, Monday was the first day that the state opened up vaccine eligibility to all adults.

The Lone Star State had deviated from federal recommendations to prioritize the elderly and the sick rather than workers who interact with the public. Health officials here argued that targeting those populations — along with medical professionals working directly with COVID patients — would drastically slow serious hospitalizations and deaths. Statistics show that there is a lag between white residents and residents of color.

By Monday, more than 319,000 Dallas County residents had been fully vaccinated, according to state data. Of those who reported their race and ethnicity, 41% were white — 13 percentage points higher than their share of the total population. Hispanics, who make up 40% of the county’s population, accounted for 20% of those fully vaccinated. Blacks accounted for 13% of the fully vaccinated.

Blacks and Hispanics nationally are overrepresented in retail jobs compared to the overall workforce, according a 2020 Census report. They also are more likely to be women and live in poverty.

It’s a win/win situation. Other retailers have the same idea. A government resource was announced last week that offers guidance for workplace vaccinations.

The three big retailers named in this post all have pharmacies in their stores. Access to pharmacists who have been trained to administer the Covid vaccinations makes this a no-brainer, it seems to me. Amazon is also beginning to vaccinate its front-line workers as vaccines become available. I expect this will be a growing trend.