MILWAUKEE — Restaurant and food service workers were able to get their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday at the Wisconsin Center.
State health authorities announced their eligibility Friday "due to the increased supply of vaccine and in recognition of the public-facing role," according to a spokesperson.
TMJ4 News spoke with coffee shop, brewery, and food supply store workers as they went in for their appointments Monday afternoon. Each of them said they were thrilled to find out they were eligible late last week.
Lania Pippin works at FreshFin Poké, and when she found out, she and her coworkers immediately signed up. She took the bus to the Wisconsin Center on Monday for her shot.
"When she was like, 'you’re getting the Pfizer one today,' and I was like 'woohoo,'" Pippin said.
All year Pippin said she was worried she could get infected with COVID-19 while on the job.
"It was really intense, it was really really scary," Pippin said. "It's over now, mask mandates are a thing."
Some workers are counting down the days when their vaccine window is complete.
"I'm excited. I am a swing dancer, it’s just been hard to not be able to dance for over a year," said David Johnson, who works at Penzeys Spices. "So I took a picture of my shoes and put it on Facebook as soon as I made my appointment and said, 't minus six weeks.'"
Kristin Engibous and Kendrum Chambers work for breweries, and on Monday they brought their kids to watch them get their first doses.
"It keeps getting busier and busier at the restaurant, and it's nice that we can finally get vaccinated," Engibous said.
"I'm constantly delivering and going in and out of restaurants, bars and clubs, and so I'm very happy I got my vaccine," Chambers said.
According to a recent survey by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, 33 percent of operators believe it will take about seven to 12 months before operations return to normal, and 12 percent say business will never return to pre-pandemic levels.
But workers say the vaccine gives them hope.
"I'm going to love it. I'll tell you people are very wary, face masks, they don't like to be next to you. It’s just I just want this to be over with," Chambers said.
"I'll be like, 'ok, hi, welcome in,' and actually mean it," Pippin said.