WASHINGTON — On Dec. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its recommendation that people over 75 years old and 30 million frontline essential workers should be next in line to receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

After the announcement, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) published a statement that said meat and poultry workers should qualify for the next phase (Phase 1b) of the vaccination plan.

"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,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and chief executive officer for NAMI. “Meat Institute members stand ready to support vaccination for our diverse workforce, which will also deliver wide-ranging health benefits in rural and high-risk communities. Meat and poultry leaders may also be able to aid vaccination for all Americans, for example by offering state-of-the-art cold storage for these precious vaccines.”

The association said the meat industry has spent $1.5 billion on COVID-19-related prevention and support. NAMI said members distributed tens of millions of pieces of personal protective equipment, implemented health and temperature screening, radically modified facilities, conducted testing, preemptively paid leave for high-risk and quarantined employees and enhanced air sanitation and ventilation.

Earlier in the month NAMI provided written comments to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and governors of US states.