Springdale-based Tyson Foods is partnering with Matrix Medical to ensure its more than 100,000 U.S. employees are educated about and have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Providing vaccine education and accessibility is a critical part of our ongoing commitment to put the health and safety of our team members first,” said Dean Banks, Tyson Foods president and CEO.
Matrix will work with Tyson Foods’ health services team to deploy mobile health clinics and clinical staff to support vaccine communications, administration and counseling at Tyson Foods facilities beginning in early 2021 and continuing throughout the year. Tyson Foods will provide employees with third-party education information in multiple languages from resources such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the vaccines and vaccination process.
“Providing vaccinations and healthcare monitoring to Tyson employees is the next step in a comprehensive approach to fighting COVID-19 and establishing new ways of maintaining workplace health and safety for the future,” said Dr. Daniel Castillo, chief medical officer at Matrix Medical.
Tyson said because the availability of the vaccine will vary by state, the company is committed to a long-term strategy that ensures any employee who wants a vaccine will receive one. Vaccines will be administered at the earliest opportunity following guidance from health officials and in sufficient quantities to ensure effective scheduling and delivery. Company officials said the company will encourage employees to take the vaccination.
Last month meat and poultry worker groups asked the CDC for priority in getting the vaccines because they are frontline workers that have been hit hard during the pandemic. The CDC agreed that line workers in meat and poultry processing plants should be among the first to be vaccinated after health care workers and those in long-term care facilities.
But with vaccinations bottlenecking in some states, the CDC recently updated the guidelines to say by end of January the allocation of vaccines will be based on the percentage of doses each state has successfully administered thus far and the number of residents aged 65 or over. The CDC said the new methodology is aimed at serving as an incentive for states to increase the speed and accessibility of available vaccines, as some states report roadblocks hindering rollout. He said states were getting two weeks notice to plan and improve their reporting.
The CDC said older Americans and those with co-morbidities, in addition to health care and front-line workers, are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering severe complications. which is why the agency recommends the populations be the first to receive immunizations. American Meat Institute CEO Julie Anna Potts applauded the CDC’s decision to put front-line meat processing workers inline for for the vaccine.
”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 said.
Tyson has come under fire in recent months and is being sued by six families who lost family members from COVID-19 complications while they were employed by Tyson. The meat giant has said it takes the safety of its workforce seriously and the company has invested more than $540 million to combat the virus with protective equipment, proactive scanners, always-on testing, social distancing and additional pay and benefits for its workforce during the past year.
Tyson also hired a chief medical officer and an additional 200 nurses and administrative staff this past year, which means the company now has an occupational health staff of almost 600. The medical staff screen for symptoms, conduct testing and track cases to help care for employees if they become ill. The company said it continues to conduct thousands of COVID-19 tests each week among its workforce to ensure those with no symptoms can be notified they are positive and must be quarantined.