Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, announced that it is actively preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution to employees and has medical capabilities at its U.S. plants.
Meatpacking workers were among the groups hit hardest by the new coronavirus last year, as U.S. slaughterhouses became hot spots for outbreaks in the spring, helping spread the virus around rural America.
Smithfield, owned by China’s WH Group, is one of the first companies in the U.S. to say it is preparing to vaccinate workers, although it declined to provide details on its plans and said circumstances vary by state.
According to federal guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food and agricultural workers are scheduled to receive the vaccine in a later phase, after healthcare workers and people over the age of 75.
In Missouri, where Smithfield owns meat plants and hog farms, state officials encouraged the company’s moves. “We are fully supportive and appreciative that employers like Smithfield are looking ahead and are actively engaged now, making plans to protect their employees through vaccination when their turn comes,” the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services said.