Chipotle not requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccine, but will ‘strongly encourage it’

Chipotle will not be requiring its employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 but will "strongly encourage it," according to the company’s CEO.

In an interview with NBC’s Closing Bell on Tuesday, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said the company will cover any cost employees may accrue to get the vaccine, but it will not mandate that every worker get one.

"This is a topic we’ve been discussing a whole bunch because it falls right in the realm of making sure that we got the best wellness programs available for our employees," Niccol said. "As of right now, we are not going to mandate it, we’re going to strongly encourage it. We’ll cover any of the cost associated with getting access to it as well as the ability to get a vaccine. But we are not going to mandate it."

Essential workers such as those in the food industry, as well as people who are 75 or older, are next in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The so-called Phase 1B group is estimated to include about 49 million people, or nearly 15% of Americans.

According to a list provided by ACIP, roughly 30 million front-line essential workers, or those in sectors "essential to the functioning of society and are at substantially higher risk of exposure" to COVID-19, will be part of the group.

A second vaccine began rolling out on Dec. 20 to hospitals, a desperately needed boost as the nation works to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

FILE - An image of the sign for Chipotle.

RELATED: People over 75, essential workers next in line for COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer's vaccine was the first to be approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. It has now been joined by another two-shot vaccine from Moderna, developed in close collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. The government began shipping the Pfizer vaccine to states last week, and the one from Moderna this week.

The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report.