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Quest for meat & poultry workers top be priority for COVID vaccine

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Multiple companies are currently in Phase 3 of clinical trials for a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic. While we wait to see where the vaccines are distributed first, the agriculture industry wants to be at the top of the list, behind healthcare workers. The North American Meat Institute urged federal authorities to highly prioritize COVID-19 vaccination for the men and women who work in the meat and poultry industry, following healthcare workers and those in long term care facilities.

Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said, “The men and women of the meat and poultry industry help keep America’s grocery stores stocked and our farm economy working. They should be highly prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, following our nation’s brave health care workers.

“The meat and poultry industry was among the first sectors to be challenged with the pandemic, and since March the industry has implemented effective programs and controls to stop the spread of COVID. Our efforts are working, but access to vaccines remains the most critical tool to protect this critical infrastructure workforce.”

Since the spring, meat and poultry companies have implemented health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and, in many cases, additional measures. The industry has spent more than $1 billion to date on procedures and controls to both support and protect employees. These measures include physical adaptations to facilities, personal protective equipment, enhanced sanitation, advanced ventilation systems, extensive testing and contact tracing, enhanced health care services, and more.

Some Meat Institute members are volunteering state-of-the-art cold storage facilities to assist in the nationwide roll-out of vaccines that must be kept frozen. Companies’ existing infrastructure — including health services for employees, daily health screenings, and information for employees encouraging vaccination — will also facilitate efficient delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this week, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program (Phase 1a) should include providing vaccines to health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities.

KatieRose McCullough, Ph.D. MPH, Director, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs for the Meat Institute submitted written comments urging ACIP to prioritize vaccination for meat and poultry workers during the next phase (Phase 1b).

Including meat and poultry workers in Phase 1b will:

  • Protect meat and poultry workers as critical infrastructure employees whose heroic efforts feed the nation throughout the pandemic;
  • Increase health equity as the workforce is highly diverse and includes populations the CDC has also identified as greatly affected by COVID-19;
  • Strengthen vaccine distribution in rural communities with limited health care infrastructure, where meat and poultry facilities are major employers; and
  • Maximize efficiency using existing protocols and procedures that make meat and poultry facilities ideal locations to efficiently distribute vaccines, especially those facilities with medical staff on site.

To read the Meat Institute’s comments to ACIP, click here.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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