Groups request COVID-19 vaccine priority for ag workers

Amid promising news about the effectiveness of potential COVID-19 vaccines, members of the food and agriculture supply chain wrote a letter to President Donald Trump saying the industry’s workers should be prioritized in a vaccine rollout.

Groups signing on included the North American Meat Institute, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Restaurant Association and several others.

As described in the administration’s “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations,” the groups wrote, “we strongly support prioritizing essential workers in critical infrastructure industries, including those responsible for ensuring the continuity of our nation’s food supply.

“Prioritizing vaccinations for food, agriculture, retail, and CPG workers will be a key intervention to help keep workers healthy and to ensure that agricultural and food supply chains remain operating,” the letter said.

This came shortly before Tyson announced it was facing a wrongful death lawsuit from the son of a worker who died of COVID-19 complications.

The lawsuit alleges that managers at Tyson’s Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant misled workers about the virus early in the pandemic and allowed sick employees to continue working. According to the allegations, managers at the plant “organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19.”

Out of about 2,800 workers at the plant, more than 1,000 were infected by the virus, and five died, according to Reuters.