There has been some confusion over what groups of workers are prioritized under in vaccination Phase 1b, and it turns out that San Francisco is going to move restaurant workers up in the phasing ahead of what the CDC officially recommends.
Phase 1b of COVID vaccine eligibility, which Mayor London Breed has said will begin February 24, is set to include educators, emergency services workers, and "food and agriculture" workers — and it's this latter category that has been the cause for confusion. The state of California had suggested previously that restaurant workers should be included under the "food" category alongside grocery workers, but not all counties are handling it this way.
In Alameda County, for instance, grocery store employees begin to be eligible for their shots this week — with appointments now open to them at the mass-vaccination site at the Oakland Coliseum that opened today. But restaurant workers are not yet eligible — and the same is true for Berkeley, which has its own health department independent of the county's, as Berkeleyside reports. Residents over the age of 65 and healthcare workers, who are part of Phase 1a, continue to be eligible, and some are already getting their second shots.
In San Francisco, at least as of last week, the Department of Emergency Management confirmed to SFist that restaurant workers will become eligible once Phase 1b begins. "Restaurant workers will be able to get vaccinated starting on February 24," the department said in a statement.
It's unclear if any delays in this schedule have arisen due to the unreliable and slow supply of vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna.
Under the CDC's guidelines, restaurant workers fall in Phase 1c. However New York has already moved restaurant workers and taxi drivers up in the queue, and both restaurant employees and drivers for third-party delivery companies became eligible for vaccines in New York City last week.
San Francisco had to shut down its mass-vaccination sites at City College and the Moscone Center this week due to lack of vaccine supplies — but the city said that all appointments for second shots would still be honored. The City College drive-up site reopens Friday for second shots only, and Breed has yet to given an update on the arrival of more vaccine supplies.
According to city data, over 122,000 San Franciscans have gotten their first COVID shots as of Monday, and nearly 36,000 have received their second shots. This means that 16% of city residents over the age of 16 have received at least one of the two shots.
Once grocery store and restaurant workers, along with all the city's educators, become eligible, it will mean tens of thousands more people will be vying for vaccine appointments — including residents of other counties who work in San Francisco. SF has actually administered over 205,000 first doses, but some 80,000 of those have gone to people (presumably healthcare workers and nursing home employees) who live outside the county and come here to work.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association estimates that San Francisco had around 60,000 employees tied to food service before the pandemic began. An estimated 35,000 of those had retained their jobs just before the December lockdown, and there is no estimate of how many will be working and eligible when vaccines become available next week.
In Berkeley, to prove eligibility, workers have to provide pay stubs or employee ID badges that include photos, in order to make vaccine appointments. Something similar is likely to happen in San Francisco.
After the February 24 floodgates are open for these workers, March 15 will be the next shift, at which point anyone between the ages of 16 and 64 with one of ten qualifying medical conditions will become eligible for their vaccines. Healthcare providers will be asked to use their discretion in deciding if patients qualify.
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