Portage restaurant offers free food to vaccine workers

Coronavirus

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Portage community is giving back to workers manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine at the Pfizer Global Supply site.

Mazen Ahmad, owner of Bab El Salam Mediterranean Restaurant, says he is so thankful for the work being done on the vaccine that he is offering free food to Pfizer employees.

“We would be happy to give them anything they need from the menu,” Ahmad said.

Amo was touched by all the work being done to save lives and felt this was the least he could do.

“It doesn’t matter if they are from Kalamazoo or if they are from different countries. You could feel it when you see the news — when you see doctors (in) the emergency room or a nurse crying because she saw a lot of people dying. We have to do our share, too,” Ahmad said.

Pfizer workers have been supporters of the restaurant throughout the pandemic.

“Local people they come to us. We see them every day, some of them two times a day or twice a week,” Ahmad said.

Amo says he was touched by the generosity of the community leaving big tips for the workers.

“Some people put $10 tip on $10 food. Some people $12 food, they put $50 to support the small business to keep standing,” Ahmad said.

A Pfizer spokesperson said its St. Louis site handles the raw material manufacturing. Then, its site in Andover, Massachusetts, makes the mRNA drug substance. From there, the formulation, filling and finish then occurs at its facility in Portage.

The facility in Portage currently employs approximately 3,000, including Pfizer workers and contract staff.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept extremely cold, around negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit during shipping.

The company says it has developed temperature-controlled thermal shipping containers using dry ice to keep the vaccine cold for up to 10 days. Most of the supply will go directly from Portage to the communities where it will be used, according to a spokesperson for Pfizer.

Portage Mayor Patricia Randall says she is extremely proud of the contribution Pfizer workers are making.

“This is about global health. I think if the announcement would have been made anywhere else in the world, we’d be doing cartwheels, but the fact that it’s in Portage is just over the top,” Randall said.

The mayor says the restaurant’s generosity should inspire us all.

“I just think it’s a tribute to the gratitude that people feel, and it’s the gift they have to give,” Randall said.

While the world waits for the vaccine to get Food and Drug Administration approval, the employees at Bob El Salam want to make sure the workers making the vaccine are well-fed as they help bring the suffering due to the pandemic to its end.

“We are part of the community. If we are not doing our part, you could see people dying every day,” Ahmad said.

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