UK – When Pfizer announced that its vaccine had achieved a 95% success rate and was ready to be used in the fight against COVID-19, questions were raised on how best to allocate the first batches of doses when they become available.

Even as front-line workers are the most obvious priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, food processors have also put in their weight to be given priority once the vaccine has been manufactured and is ready for distribution.

In a letter to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the British Meat Processors Association, along with the Food Standards Agency and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association called on Government to consider placing the key workers in meat factories on the list of early recipients.

It’s been well documented that the meat industry globally has had its share of challenges during the pandemic.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the processing line, before most pandemic precautions were in place, led to outbreaks in meat processing companies.

According to data from USDA, Food & Environment Reporting Network more than 20,000 workers working for major meatpacking companies in the US were infected with the virus since the pandemic began.

Many plants faced pressure to close as cases started to spike in April and some workers questioned whether going into work was a “death sentence.”

In response to these, Meat companies particularly those in the UK and US invested significantly in measures to keep their staff safe and keep the food supply chain moving.

These strategies have so far been effective with several meat processing companies saying they currently have less than 1% active COVID-19 cases in their workforce.

Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA however notes that workers in meat and other food processing factories are still face extra challenges and are at a higher risk of contracting covid-19.

“Once sufficient supplies of a proven vaccine have been made available to at risk-groups like health and social care workers, we are calling on Government to then extend prioritisation for vaccinations to include meat factory workers,” Mr Allen voiced his plea

“This would provide much needed protection and comfort to this at-risk group and the communities in which they live as well as ensuring that the critical food supply chain continues to run smoothly.”

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