Los Angeles County’s ongoing mass vaccination effort continues to chug along, despite limited vaccine availability and questions about access and equity. Most recently, public health officials have said that teachers and essential workers will be in line to begin receiving vaccine doses as soon as next month — and that group includes restaurant workers, grocery store workers, and others in general food service and agriculture.
There has been much confusion about vaccinations for restaurant workers over the past several weeks, particularly after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an age-based system for future vaccines. However, state (and now local) officials have maintained that the age-based system won’t go into effect until later stages, meaning essential workers are still at the top of the current list for being vaccinated in LA County. Ultimately, each county is responsible for much of the rollout surrounding the vaccines, which has led to issues of scarcity and oversupply (chaos, really, at times) in different areas, and a wealth of questions about who can be vaccinated, and when. It has been more clear for weeks up in the Bay Area that restaurant workers would continue to be prioritized, as state officials have long held, though such direct restaurant clarity has only come to LA County in recent days.
Per LA Times health reporter Soumya Karlamangla, food service workers alone number north of 400,000, with grocery store workers the second largest population set at over 80,000 people. Taken together, the food and agriculture arm of the essential workers category numbers well north of half a million people, all of whom will be eligible for their first vaccine dose in as little as a few weeks. Such access marks a lone bright spot in a year of coronavirus despair and uncertainty within the restaurant industry, though questions still remain about the equitable distribution of doses, particularly among people of color (who make up the majority of restaurant and agriculture workers) across the county.