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Hotels pitch Biden-Harris administration on becoming vaccination outposts

An industry group claims hotels have it all covered -- from geographic reach to refrigeration

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Photo (c) mustafagull - Getty Images
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has told the incoming Biden-Harris transition team that its members are primed and ready to serve as vaccination sites, pitching the idea to the incoming administration that hotels have an array of pluses that many other venues don’t.

“As you know, administering the vaccine on a national level will be a significant undertaking requiring innovative solutions and collaboration. To aide in the distribution, the hotel industry is asking that hotels be considered as an option for vaccine administration sites in partnership with public health departments,” AHLA’s President and CEO, Chip Rogers, suggested in a letter to the Biden-Harris team.

The AHLA has some wind behind its back going into this idea. In the early stages of the pandemic, it launched the “Hospitality for Hope” initiative, offering 2.3 million rooms in close proximity to established healthcare facilities so frontline workers had a place to stay. 

Hotels as vaccination sites

It might seem braggadocious for the AHLA to say it has a “unique capability," but in this situation, all of the pieces do seem to fit. 

“Administering the vaccine on a national scale and of this magnitude is a significant undertaking and hotels bring a unique set of infrastructural and operational capabilities to serve as vaccine administration sites that public health agencies should seriously consider utilizing,” said Rear Adm. (retired) Louis Tripoli, MD, former command surgeon, US Pacific Command.

“With a substantial network of properties across the country with excess capacity right now due to the drop in travel demand, hotels could be a major asset in helping administer the vaccine safely and more conveniently to the American public.” 

A number of pluses

In pitching the idea to Biden-Harris administration, the ALHA said hotels are uniquely suited to serving as vaccine distribution sites due to the following characteristics: 

Geographic reach: The AHLA says it has upwards of 50,000 hotels in the U.S. cities, suburbs, and rural communities and covers every state.

Available capacity: While hotels are taking a hit by running at less than 50 percent COVID-driven occupancy rates, the AHLA’s pitch, if successful, could help turn that around. The group is trying to convince the incoming administration that its properties provide comfortable and flexible lodging options for families to vaccinate.

Property design and operation: The AHLA says its member hotels operate “24/7” and have everything from private rooms to ballrooms and outside areas pre-equipped for round-the-clock vaccination administration.

Comprehensive cleanliness protocols: “The industry has also adopted AHLA’s Safe Stay, an enhanced cleaning initiative that builds on the hotel industry’s long-standing commitment and operations procedures to ensure the safety of guests during the ongoing public health crisis,” Rogers reminded the Biden-Harris team.

Infrastructure: Another incentive the group pitched is that most hotels have ample parking and usually accessible from major transportation hubs. Rogers added that on top of that, parking lots could be utilized for vaccination administration, similar to drive-thru testing sites.

Refrigeration capabilities: One thing most people take for granted but makes perfect sense in this situation is that many hotels have refrigeration capabilities that could be used to store vaccines.

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