CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Around 400 Charleston area restaurant workers got their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday during a clinic set up for those in the food and beverage industry.
The clinic was the brainchild of Michael Shemtov, who runs a number of restaurants in the area. He said his employees recounted issues finding a place to get vaccinated, so he found a way to bring the vaccines to them.
“In early March when vaccine availability opened up for (the food and beverage industry), we were extremely excited,” Shemtov said. “We encouraged all our staff to sign up, and within about 24 hours starting hearing stories about people being unable to find appointments or the only appointments they could find were two, three hours away, and so I just thought to myself ‘There has to be a better way.’”
Those experiences led to Tuesday’s event, a partnership with Liberty Doctors and the non-profit group Pay it Forward.
Vaccinating restaurant workers, Shemtov said, is important because, “We have very diverse staffs… they’re generally not rich so they may not have access to concierge service doctors. A lot of them also live in settings with roommates and with other people in the house, and they’re also younger, they go out more and they interact with the public as part of their job.”
Initially, Shemtov planned to offer the vaccine to the roughly 40 employees of his Butcher and Bee restaurant, but Liberty had the capacity to do more. Word quickly spread among restauranteurs and chefs, helping the event grow to hundreds.
One of those who got the vaccine was Lisa Curles.
“I work in food, so I handle food that goes out into the public, as well as the fact that I wanted to protect myself as well as anyone that I come in contact with even outside of work,” she said when asked why she decided to get vaccinated.
Organizers of Tuesday’s clinic are planning another vaccine clinic in three weeks for people to get their second doses and may hold more clinics if the demand is there.