By Peter Matz, Director, Food & Nutrition Policy, FMI 

Vaccine Booster Shot

Beginning in the initial days of the pandemic, food industry workers have been a vital component of ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food as well as other consumer products that have been indispensable to pandemic response. Meanwhile, supermarket pharmacists and their staff have been on the front lines every day providing COVID-19 vaccinations and serving patients as critically important health care professionals. We witnessed during this unprecedented health emergency that our industry’s workers are not only important to protecting public health, but they are also essential to the function of society.

That is why it was such a shot in the arm that the federal government has once again prioritized the health and safety of our industry’s workers by announcing that health care workers (including pharmacists and pharmacy staff), food and agriculture workers, and grocery store workers are all eligible to receive Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shots beginning six months after they received their second shot. President Biden even gave grocery workers a special shout out during a speech he delivered when the news broke! Although initial COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against severe disease remains high, even those with mild illness often cannot work. Therefore, given many of the food industry workers now eligible for a Pfizer booster received their initial shots early in the vaccination campaign, it is welcome news that they can choose to benefit from the additional protection that a booster dose provides. 

CDC Vaccine SignOf course, the CDC’s recommendations cover other populations as well. In addition to certain frontline essential workers, Pfizer booster shots are also recommended for people 65 years and older, residents of long-term care settings and adults who are at risk of severe COVID-19 due to certain underlying medical conditions. Supermarket pharmacies serve as a health and well-being destination for countless Americans and have played a critical role in administering COVID-19 vaccines. According to FMI’s 2021 Retailer Contributions to Health and Well-being report, 81% of FMI member companies with pharmacy operations administer COVID-19 vaccines. Now, the vast majority of supermarket pharmacies will also be a safe, convenient place for shoppers to receive their booster shots.

And, with flu season upon us, it’s important to note that the CDC now advises it is perfectly safe for eligible patients to receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same visit. In fact, according to CDC best practice guidelines, “Simultaneously administering all vaccines for which a person is eligible at the time of a visit increases the probability that a [patient] will be vaccinated fully by the appropriate age.” To help educate the public about this, FMI created signage for interested members to hang in their pharmacies.

The availability of COVID-19 booster shots will help keep for our industry’s frontline heroes safe and healthy, while Americans can continue looking to their local supermarket pharmacies to safeguard the health of their families.