Last Thursday, the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) urged federal authorities to make COVID-19 vaccination a high priority for men and women working in the meat and poultry industry, led by healthcare staff and long-term care workers.
"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." said Meat Institute Chief and CEO Julie Anna.
"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."
Health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration have been adopted by meat and poultry companies since the spring. To date, the industry has spent over $1 billion on policies and controls to both support and protect workers. These interventions include physical adaptations to facilities, personal protective devices, better grooming, advanced ventilation systems, rigorous monitoring and touch tracing, improved health care services, etc.
Some representatives of the Meat Institute volunteer state-of-the-art cold storage facilities to help roll out vaccinations that need to be kept frozen nationally. The current infrastructure of businesses, including employee wellness programs, regular health screenings, and employee information promoting vaccination, would also promote the efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended earlier this week that the initial phase of the vaccination program for COVID-19 (Phase 1a) should include the provision of vaccinations to health care workers and long-term care facility residents.
Written comments were made by KatieRose McCullough, Ph.D. MPH, Director, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs for the Meat Institute, urging ACIP to prioritize vaccination for meat and poultry staff in the next process (Phase 1b).
For employees including those in meat and poultry for Step 1b will:
- Protect meat and poultry employees as staff of critical infrastructure whose heroic efforts during the pandemic feed the nation;
- Increase health equity as the workforce is highly diverse and includes communities that have also been reported by COVID-19 by the CDC as significantly affected.
- Strengthen the delivery of vaccines in rural areas with minimal health care infrastructure, where major employers are meat and poultry facilities; and
Maximize productivity using existing protocols and procedures that make meat and poultry facilities ideal places to administer vaccines effectively especially those facilities with on-site medical staff.
The North American Meat Institute describes their organization as the pioneering advocate for the meat and poultry industry. The members of the Meat Institute process the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, as well as manufacture the equipment and ingredients required to produce meat and poultry products of the safest and highest quality.