ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES NEED COVID-19 VACCINE ACCESS

NACS – NACS, trade groups see priority for convenience and fuel retailers after health-care professionals get shots.

NACS joined with three other industry trade groups to seek second priority for employees of essential businesses, including convenience and fuel retailers, for a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available—once health-care workers are vaccinated for the disease.

In a letter sent to Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NACS, the Energy Marketers of America, NATSO and SIGMA commended the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for its playbook guiding state and local health departments in planning how vaccines will be distributed.

Health-care professionals get first priority in Phase 1-A, followed by essential workers of businesses that are part of the critical infrastructure workforce as part of Phase 1-B distribution. That priority group would include frontline workers in the convenience and fuel retailing industry and related food and fuel distribution sectors.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recognized early on the importance of our industry to ensure Americans had food in markets, fuel at gas stations, and safe places for truck drivers to stop as they haul essential items across the country. In the deployment of a vaccine to protect Americans from COVID-19, that recognition should be applied to these critical workers,” the letter states. “Our employees have put themselves at risk since the beginning of the pandemic, working despite health concerns, and we believe they should be prioritized in vaccine deployment.”

COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are nearing approvals following late-stage trails showing them to be about 95% effective, the drug companies said. Recently, AstraZeneca said that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 under one test regimen but less effective in another, the Associated Press reports. U.S. regulators have yet to approve a vaccine for distribution.

It’s unclear how a vaccine will be distributed within states and localities. CVS, Walgreen’s and other drugstore chains and supermarkets have said they will have vaccines available for customers in early 2021, once they become available to the broader U.S. population, Forbes reports.

NACS reminded Secretary Azar of the important roles convenience stores and gas stations not only to the U.S. economy but also to first responders and the nation’s transportation network.

“When vaccine distribution begins, trucks delivering the vaccine will depend on our retailers to be open to refuel. The food and convenience items our industry provides are also critical as our industry often has the most convenient locations and allows for quick shopping trips for American consumers. This is also helpful for first responders, especially because stores in our industry are typically the only ones open extended hours (or 24 hours per day) to serve their needs,” the NACS letter states. Other trade associations representing different areas of the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industries also have asked the Trump Administration for COVID-19 vaccine priority and to create a federal distribution system, NACS Daily reported recently.