Frontline meat and poultry workers should be among the first to be vaccinated after health care workers and those in long-term care facilities, according to federal guidance approved by the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Priority.
In a vote on Sunday, the CDC recommended that frontline essential workers be in the “Phase 1b” of allocation of the vaccine designed to offer protection against the novel coronavirus. The so-called Phase 1b group is estimated to include about 49 million people, or nearly 15% of Americans.
The committee defined frontline essential workers as first responders, teachers and other education workers including day care workers, food and agriculture workers, correctional facility staff, postal workers, public transit workers, and people who work in manufacturing and in grocery stores.
The Phase 1c group includes other essential workers who will be in the group from transportation, logistics and food service. This group includes 129 million Americans, or over one-third of the country.
The North American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council joined in asking state governors that in planning for distribution of the vaccine, that meatpacking workers, USDA inspectors and livestock producers be given high priority to receive vaccinations.
Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts applauded ACIP’s guidance and urged state governments to follow CDC’s decision.
"Priority access to vaccines is a critical step for the long-term safety of the selfless frontline meat and poultry workers who have kept America’s refrigerators full and our farm economy working,” Potts says. “Meat Institute members stand ready to support vaccination for our diverse workforce, which will also deliver wide-ranging health benefits in rural and high-risk communities. Meat and poultry leaders may also be able to aid vaccination for all Americans, for example by offering state-of-the-art cold storage for these precious vaccines.”
The industry has spent $1.5 billion in COVID-19 on prevention and support implemented since the earliest days of the pandemic that reversed COVID-19’s impact on meat and poultry workers. Meat Institute members have distributed tens of millions of pieces of personal protective equipment, implemented health and temperature screening, radically modified facilities, conducted testing, preemptively paid leave for high-risk and quarantined employees, enhanced air sanitation and ventilation, and more.
“Due to these efforts, COVID-19 infection rates amongst meat and poultry workers are now more than 8 times lower than in the general population,” Potts adds.
Prioritizing vaccination for frontline meat and poultry workers is supported by leaders across industry, unions, civil rights organizations and has been recognized as a key consideration in multiple other countries’ vaccine distribution planning.