How COVID-19 Vaccination Will Roll Out in Food Service

With the COVID-19 vaccinations being rolled out in phases, there has been a question of when or how the vaccines would be administered to those in foodservice. Here is an overview of what is important:

Current Phase

Here in Georgia (1), the COVID-19 vaccinations are currently being administered to those in Phase 1a+, which includes:

  • Healthcare workers (physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, EMS personnel, environmental services, etc.)
  • Residents and staff of long-term care facilities
  • Adults aged 65+ and their caregivers
  • Law enforcement, firefighters, first responders

Once the vaccinations move into Phase 1b, it will include other essential workers (non-healthcare) who “perform job tasks across critical infrastructure sectors, ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health, safety, economic and national security” (2). This group would include those in food & agriculture, which includes food service employees.

Keep in mind that priority groups for vaccination are decided by state, based on the recommendations from the Federal Government. The CDC recommendation originally classified foodservice workers in the third group, 1c, in the first wave of Americans to receive the vaccine along with people ages 65-74, adults with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers like transportation, construction, and public health workers, but some states like Georgia have placed foodservice workers in 1b.

To find out your state’s vaccination plan, visit your state’s Department of Health website.

Georgia residents can visit as well as

Vaccination Guidance for Employers

The National Restaurant Association’s stance on vaccinating foodservice workers has been strong, stating that the vaccination would “help the entire food and restaurant industry continue growing, selling and serving healthy food even in times of crisis” (3).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has permitted employers to make the COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory in the workplace as long as the worker “poses a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others.” Still, the big question has been how employers can implement this approach (4).

While many chains have not yet announced how they will approach vaccinations for employees, some companies are offering incentives to make vaccination more favorable to their workers (4). For example, Darden Restaurants Inc. will be offering 4 paid hours of pay to their workers for getting the vaccine, as will McDonalds (5).

“The key is for an employer to determine the basis for whichever approach it takes, to lay it out early,” said Kathy Dudley Helms, a member of labor and employment law firm Ogletree Deakins’ Coronavirus Taskforce and Healthcare Practice Group (6). It is also essential to “educate employees as to the need and the requirements [of the vaccine].”

Also, if employers have various types of workers, a “hybrid” may work in many situations. For example, those in front of the house may be required to have the vaccine, while those in BOH may be allowed to take it or not voluntarily. “Again, an employer needs to be able to articulate why he or she is making the choice that it is” (6).

How to Get Vaccinated

When you are eligible for the vaccine (this will depend on the current vaccine phase of your state), you can get vaccinated at select COVID-19 vaccination sites or a local vaccine provider listed in your state’s department of public health website.

For Georgia residents,

Unfortunately, vaccine supply is still limited, even though new orders arrive each week. We recommend that you set up an appointment first before you arrive.

More Resources


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