Retail workers deserve to be vaccinated soon

Dear Sir,

I attach a letter for your readers that I have sent to Health Minister Robin Swann, First Minster Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Today, I write to you as a supermarket worker.

I assume that it is not necessary for me to provide a reminder of the high risks that we continue to endure as we fulfil our duties in providing the public with with food and other essential goods. Effectively, in our own right, we are enabling the public to live.

In previous times, we received some acknowledgement for what we do. While I certainly do not compare my role to that of medical professionals dealing with this crisis head-on, I do believe that we have been forgotten.

I am sure that you will agree with me that the vaccine rollout here has progressed with great rapidity. It is my understanding that as of December, over 70,000 health and social care staff received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Indeed, this news is most welcoming.

However, it does feel like a kick in the teeth when I hear of pharmacy workers, for example, being offered such safeguards.

I ask, what makes supermarket colleagues different to this group? We fulfil the same duties.

We stock shelves in people-dense environments. We receive deliveries. We serve members of the general public - many of whom drip with complacency, failing to sanitise, wear masks or maintain a safe distance.

It is too common that we are subject to abuse and condescension for requesting such means are adhered to. Many staff contemplate whether such risks are worth the mere c. £9 per hour. Most however, cannot even afford to contemplate it.

Further acknowledgement and support to safeguard supermarket workers is vital.

I therefore propose that the vaccine rollout is extended to supermarket workers as a priority group without delay.

Yours faithfully,

Oisín Maguire