Young P.E.I. food industry workers starting to book vaccine appointments
'Maybe now that they know the staff are vaccinated, they'll feel safer on going into restaurants'
Thursday was the first day Islanders between 18 and 29 who work in food and beverage service and food delivery were able to schedule their vaccinations.
P.E.I.'s Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling said those Islanders are able to book directly with one of the six partner pharmacies to receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Dowling recommends they go to the province's website for more information on how best to contact the pharmacies closest to where they are.
Olivia Craig, a 19-year-old server at Hunter's Ale House in Charlottetown, thought she was months away from getting her COVID-19 vaccine.
She managed to book her appointment for next week.
"At least for the people not vaccinated yet, it'll give them the comfort of knowing that we all are," Craig said. "So where their food is coming from, we're all safe."
A customer at Hunter's on Thursday agreed. Al Green from Stratford, P.E.I., is also eligible for the current vaccine rollout. The 75-year-old has scheduled his first shot but won't get his vaccine for a few weeks.
"They're meeting anybody and everybody from all over the place," Green said. "They don't know where the people came from…. So they might as well have it first."
'They'll feel safer'
The owner of the Red Island Hospitality Group, which runs several downtown eateries and pubs including Hunter's, said he will still have to wait a while for his vaccine but he thinks it will increase customer confidence knowing the majority of the servers are vaccinated.
"I feel like when these announcements of restaurant closures and restrictions and the shortened hours, that consumers feel that maybe it's not the safest place to go to restaurants," Jeff Sinnott said.
"But maybe now that they know the staff are vaccinated, they'll feel safer on going into restaurants."
The Canadian Restaurant Workers Coalition called P.E.I.'s decision to bump up the restaurant and delivery workers in the vaccine line incredible.
"We saw the news and we were actually kind of shocked," said coalition member Rebecca Gordon.
The national group has been lobbying different levels of governments across the country to get more supports for restaurant industry workers like vaccine priority and fair work hours and wages.
Restaurants are more risky, Gordon said, because customers have to take off their masks to eat.
She said they had not been getting much of a response from other jurisdictions so it was nice to see P.E.I. take the lead.
"Most provinces have decided to just go by age group and as you can see most restaurant workers are younger," Gordon said.
"So they are likely to be last ones in line to receive a vaccine, even though they are doing risky work."
Regular rollout continues
Islanders 75 and older are now also part of the current stage of the vaccine rollout but may have to wait a few more days to book appointments based on their birth month.
Starting Thursday, Islanders 75 and up born January through April may book appointments. Those born May through August are invited to call starting this coming Monday, March 15, and then those born September through December can begin booking on Thursday, March 18.
There is an online form or Islanders are asked to call 1-844-975-3303 seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to schedule their appointments.
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With files from Steve Bruce