Mall Santas Could Be Among First to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

September 1, 2020 by Dan McCue
Santa Ric Irwin

If there is a COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas, Santa Claus — and his fellow frontline seasonal workers — could be among the first to receive it.

After appearing before the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices last week, Ric Erwin, chairman, of the board of directors of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, informed his members this weekend that the panel agreed to provide early vaccinations to all “frontline” seasonal workers.

Better still, the ebullient “Santa” Ric said, the committee wants the Santas to play “a major role” in the upcoming national vaccine rollout.

“We will appear in 35 cities nationwide, alongside NBA and NFL players, and tons of other celebrities,” Erwin said in a Facebook post Friday night.

The response to the announcement was immediate.

“Great work, my brother in red,” one said.

“Sign me up,” said another.

The fate of Christmas 2020 — the first of the coronavirus era — has been something of an obsession for the members of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas.

In fact, they devoted their entire summer newsletter to the subject. When it went to press, there was scant guidance on what the holiday season might look like this year, and in his lead editorial, Erwin conceded “It’s not a top priority right now for many millions of Americans.”

Still, he said, Santas and other seasonal workers did have to think about it.

“Some will transition to mainly online visits, either with their legacy clients, on behalf of an app or agency, or by marketing themselves locally via the web,” Erwin wrote. “Me? I find myself firmly in the ‘Sleigh half full’ camp.

“Yes, America faces unprecedented existential threats right now, but we are still America. United, we can’t lose,” he said.

Erwin noted that as of his writing at least three promising vaccines were undergoing testing, and he expressed his hope that a decline in COVID-19 cases by the end of the year would lead to a lifting of many of the remaining social restrictions by Christmas.

“If past is prologue, American families will do what it takes to end a bad year on a good note,” Erwin said.

As Santa Ric explained both to the advisory panel and The Well News last week, his 501(c)7 organization has a long history of lobbying state and federal agencies whenever significant issues have called for it.

In 2009, he recalled, the Christmas season was under serious threat from the H1N1 epidemic, with a vaccine approved, but not yet available to the public.

Just as they did this year, the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas led the industry in petitioning for early access to the vaccine on behalf of frontline season workers.

“Our efforts were admittedly reliant upon media support and public pressure … but it worked,” Erwin said.

Armed with only his letter to the CDC, FDA, Department of Health and Human Services and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Erwin said he went directly to the vaccine’s manufacturer and got his H1N1 shot.

“This was during or shortly after its Tier 1 release, and nearly a full month before Tier 3,” he said. “Following my example, Order members in other parts of the country were able to do the same, and cumulatively, we were able to provide vaccinated Santas to nearly all major events and locations that year — not to mention the countless private parties that were saved.”

Erwin said given the isolation and stress people have experienced since the onset of the pandemic in March, “Christmas will be more important to the American psyche than ever before.”

“That’s why we are asking that professional Santas and other frontline seasonal workers be granted early access to the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as practicable after Tier 1 release,” he said.

Erwin went on to justify his request by noting that professional Santas place themselves in close, personal contact with as many as 15,000 people every holiday season, and that its target demographic — young children — “are notorious distribution vectors for all things infectious.”

“In addition, most professional Santas are in the most-at-risk category of catching and suffering the worst effects of the virus, due to advanced age or underlying medical issues,” he said. “Despite all this, Americans are going to want Santa to be at Christmas 2020.”

He is scheduled to speak with the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Last month, federal health officials asked four states — California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota — and one city — Philadelphia — to develop plans to transport and store COVID-19 vaccine and prioritize which individuals will get the first doses.

Those plans will be shared with other states to help them with vaccine distribution planning.

The United States is planning the largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken, a massive proposition requiring coordination, planning and a massive public awareness campaign.

Officials hope that by January, the government will be on track to deliver tens of millions of vaccine doses to the general public.

On August 14, the Defense and Health and Human Services departments announced that McKesson Corp. will be a central distributor of COVID-19 vaccines and related supplies.

The CDC is executing an existing contract option of $178 million with McKesson to support vaccine distribution. McKesson also distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the 2009-2010 pandemic.

McKesson will work under CDC’s guidance to ship vaccines to sites where shots will be administered, the statement said.


Trump Rebukes CDC Chief for His Cautions on a Coronavirus Vaccine and Masks
Trump Rebukes CDC Chief for His Cautions on a Coronavirus Vaccine and Masks

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump contradicted one of his administration’s top scientists and announced Wednesday that widespread distribution of a coronavirus vaccine would begin as early as next month, further rattling the scientific and public health communities and stoking rival Joe Biden’s claim that Trump can’t... Read More

Congress Seeks a Clean Energy Economy While Recovering from Coronavirus Pandemic
Congress Seeks a Clean Energy Economy While Recovering from Coronavirus Pandemic
September 17, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Congress discussed proposals Wednesday to switch the United States to 100% clean energy as Western governors confronting out-of-control wildfires demand action on global warming. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is trying to figure out a way to recover jobs lost during the coronavirus... Read More

New York Launches COVID Response Team to Monitor City's Schools
New York Launches COVID Response Team to Monitor City's Schools
September 16, 2020
by Daniel Londono

NEW YORK, N.Y.- The City of New York on Monday implemented a new COVID "Response Team" to monitor the city's schools and hopefully prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus in one of the nation's hardest hit municipalities. The city's new COVID Response Situation Room is a... Read More

Despite Pressure for COVID-19 Relief Deal, Stalemate Continues
Despite Pressure for COVID-19 Relief Deal, Stalemate Continues

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday headed a call from her members to commit to keeping the House in session until there’s a coronavirus relief deal, but the vow does little to break the stalemate in bipartisan negotiations that is at the heart of Democrats’... Read More

House Passes Legislation Aimed at Increasing Diversity in Schools
House Passes Legislation Aimed at Increasing Diversity in Schools
September 16, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

WASHINGTON - Today, the House of Representatives passed the Strength in Diversity Act 2020, legislation that will provide funding for voluntary desegregation initiatives across the country. The Strength in Diversity Act was brought to the House by Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and authored by Rep. Robert... Read More

Preparing for the Worst, Health Agencies Mount Unprecedented Flu Shot Drives
In The News
Preparing for the Worst, Health Agencies Mount Unprecedented Flu Shot Drives

WASHINGTON — If the United States has even a typical flu season that collides with a COVID-19 flare, the resulting public health nightmare could swamp the nation’s already strained health system. This year’s flu season could be milder than usual because of social distancing. And more... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top