January 7, 2021
Smithfield Foods prepares to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to its US workers
The world's biggest pork processor, Smithfield Foods, said it is preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to its workers and is equipped with medical capabilities at its plants in the United States, Reuters reported.
Smithfield Foods, owned by China's WH Group, is one of the first US companies to say it will vaccinate workers. However, there are no details on its plans.
The US meatpacking industry was hit by COVID-19 outbreaks last year, as the virus spread throughout rural America.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention federal guidance showed food and agricultural workers will receive the COVID-19 vaccine after healthcare workers and those over the age of 75.
State officials in Missouri encouraged Smithfield Foods' move. The company owns several meat plants and swine farms in the state.
The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services said they are fully supportive and appreciative that Smithfield Foods is looking ahead and is actively engaged now to protect its workers through vaccination when they can do so.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 10% of meatpacking workers in the US are unorthorised immigrants, which could be a barrier to receiving medical care in some states. Smithfield Foods said all its workers are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines as it does not employ undocumented immigrants.
The US Labor Department and a California state workplace safety regulator have separately named Smithfield Foods as a company that did not protect workers from COVID-19 last year. Smithfield Foods has disputed their investigations.
Smithfield Foods, as well as other meatpackers, have also come under fire for domestic pork shortages because of COVID-19 outbreaks in meat plants while US pork exports to China increased.