Meat Lobby Group Calls for Vaccine Priority for Plant Workers

The U.S. meat industry wants its workers early in line for the Covid-19 vaccine, once healthcare employees and those in long-term care facilities get the shot, the North American Meat Institute said Thursday in a statement.

Employees working in close quarters at meatpacking plants were among the hardest-hit groups in the early stages of the pandemic in the U.S., with 8% of cases linked to outbreaks at those facilities, according to a study by the Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

As thousands caught the virus and dozens died, meat plants closed and caused pork and beef production to drop as much as about 40% before U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order on April 28 for factories to stay open. Meat plants spent more than $1 billion for protective equipment, testing, worker pay and other measures such as retrofitting facilities with plastic dividers, according to the industry group.

Drugmakers have started vaccine production, with Pfizer Inc. saying it can make 50 million doses of its shots this year and Moderna Inc. aiming for between 100 million and 125 million doses available globally in the first quarter of 2021.

Read More: Medical Workers, Long-Term Care Get Nod for First Covid Shot

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

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