Grocery store workers are among the half million San Diegans who became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday.
Todd Walters, the President of The United Food and Commercial Workers 135, told NBC 7 that he expects Union grocery store pharmacies to receive shipments of vaccines some time next week or the beginning of the following week.
“These essential workers are keeping the community fed. They’re here every day. They come to work. They can’t work from home. They’re not lazy. They’re proud of what they do and we’re proud of them and they deserve this vaccine,” said Walters.
Grocery workers; like Mike Ryan, a Produce Manager at Albertsons in Rancho Bernardo, have been working non-stop since the start of the pandemic to help keep San Diegans fed and stocked during a challenging year.
“I have a family. I got a wife and kids and they’re not essential workers, I am. And I come home after being in the store all day long and with customers all day. I don’t want to go home and hug my wife and maybe give something to her or my daughter and they get sick because they’re not vaccinated,” said Ryan.
Ryan said the average grocery store worker comes in contact with up to 3,000 customers each day. He admits, he and his colleagues have felt concerned about becoming exposed to COVID-19.
“It’s a little bit scary. Me and my team, I run the Produce Department over there, and me and my back up we’ll compare notes and concerns for everyone getting sick. And they’re all concerned about it. But we have to do what we have to do. We have bills to pay like anybody else and we have a service to provide to the public,” said Ryan.
“We’ve had about 1,200 members get coronavirus and out of that 1,200 about 850 just in the last three months,” said Walters. “We’ve had members call our office from the hospital; you can’t understand them. They’re trying to get their insurance benefits in line. This has impacted us in a big way, and we needed to get this done.”
Walters said he has been working with county leaders to help get doses into union grocery store pharmacies to make vaccinations convenient for staff.
“We may not see grocery workers get too many vaccines yet, because of the backlog in second doses, the shortages, but I’m expecting by the end of this week and beginning of next week that we’ll see a large number of grocery workers vaccinated,” Walters explained.
In Ryan’s case, he told NBC 7 that his store has been distributing vaccines to people 65 and older for a few weeks. He was put on the pharmacy’s wait-list for left over vaccines and was able to receive his doses.
“I happened to get lucky and get my name called and I went in there and got that, which set me up for a second vaccine a month later,” said Ryan.