Amplifying the way so many hospitality businesses have worked hard over the last year to support communities and people, self-described “pot stirrer”, Canadian chef Hugh Acheson tweeted: “With deaths from Covid setting a new daily record, I am happy to offer some help on vaccination efficiency. I expedite well.”
With hospitality venues around the world suffering due to Covid-19 restrictions the prospect that the vaccination programs being rolled out by governments worldwide offer the exciting prospect of a return to near normality in the not too distant future.
A tweet from James Watt, chief executive of BrewDog, a multinational brewery and pub chain based in Scotland, UK, offered British secretary of state for health Matt Hancock and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, its help to get the vaccination out there.
“We would like to offer our closed BrewDog venues to help with a quick roll-out of the vaccine. For free. We have waiting areas, huge refrigerators, separate rooms for vaccinations and an ace team who can help organize. We want to help,” he tweeted.
Ian Hanlon, director of Coverpoint Foodservice Consulting points out: “Not for the first time during this global crisis, hospitality operators have pivoted their offers to provide support to their local communities. Indeed, BrewDog has been sticking its head above the parapet since the crisis began, altering its brewing process in Aberdeenshire to produce much needed hand sanitizer for distribution to charities and hospitals. The amount of goodwill created in the BrewDog brand from this gesture was immeasurable, with columns of press coverage and a positive reaction across social media platforms.”
Other hospitality businesses followed up with offers of their own. With space, refrigeration that is adequate for the Oxford-AstraZeneca version of the vaccine that can be stored at regular fridge temperatures, they felt they were ideally positioned within communities to offer practical solutions.
Route to normal
Dermot King chief executive of British pub and restaurant group, Oakman Inns, acknowledged that the jab represented hope that business could one day return to normal. “The only route to any normality is through mass vaccination and for that the NHS [the UK’s National Health Service] needs to be able to work at scale. The entire hospitality industry is desperate to re-open as quickly as possible before we have huge-scale redundancies across the sector,” he explained.
Oakman Inns are in line to receive a lockdown grant worth £250,000 from the British government, but King is willing to forego that to see a larger, speedier roll out of the vaccination program. “Clearly, the money would help us in the short-term, but realistically the only way all of us can get back to normal is to get the country vaccinated,” he said in a statement.
“We would rather let the government keep their hand-out to invest it in using hospitality venues as vaccination centers for the greater good of all. “We want to help the Government and the people of the UK beat Covid-19 because the quicker we’re vaccinated, the more lives we save, the more jobs we save, the more businesses we save, and we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to see that happen.”
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at temperatures of minus 80 to minus 60 degrees Celsius, the Oxford-AstraZeneca version of the vaccine can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. However commercial refrigeration and freezer manufacturer Hoshizaki has issued a warning to the healthcare sector about using adequate refrigeration needed for the vaccine’s safe storage.
“Given that vaccination venues will be vaccinating patients countless times per day, the door of the refrigerator will in-turn need to be opened frequently in order for the vaccine to be retrieved on a patient-by-patient basis,” Simon Frost, Director, Hoshizaki UK & Ireland, explained.
“A domestic, Climate Class 3 (or lower) rated refrigerator is simply not designed to be opened to this high level, and therefore will not be able to maintain safe, storage temperatures for the vaccine. It is therefore critical that designated vaccination venues use a commercial, Climate Class 4 or higher rated refrigerator.”
Center of the community
The government has announced seven large mass vaccination centers around England, including sports arenas and racecourses. For many these are hard to reach and there have been distressing scenes of octogenarians queuing in the cold outside the ExCel in London and waiting for help to negotiate the venue’s access ramps.
If the refrigeration is up to the job the offers by the hospitality industry could offer a solution. They are often more conveniently located and offer large spaces and car parking.
Chris Stern, managing director at Stern Consultancy Ltd in Horsham, UK, is unsure about how feasible taking up the offers would be, but accepts the intentions are good. “In truth I suspect it’s not the most practical offer, but who knows, if there are areas without relevant facilities, then it could be an option,” he says.
“It’s also great publicity for those companies in particular and our sector in general, adding to all the amazing initiatives we’ve seen to help out people who are struggling to put food on the table and to support the frontline workers.”