SPRINGDALE, ARK. – With front-line workers expected to be among essential workers who are next in line to be eligible for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination, Tyson Foods Inc. is utilizing the expertise of its chief medical officer, Caludia Coplein, MD, and the partnership with a third-party clinical services company to inform and educate employees about the safety and accessibility of the vaccine. The company said it is strongly encouraging its workers take the vaccine when it becomes available.
Tyson’s health services team includes a partnership with Matrix Medical Network and the ability to dispatch mobile health professionals to its facilities across the United States to provide on-site communication and education, in multiple languages, about the vaccine as well as administration of the vaccine and counseling services to workers.
“Tyson and Matrix have worked together throughout the pandemic to create clinically driven strategies to mitigate the risk of the virus in the workplace,” said Daniel Castillo, MD, chief medical officer at Matrix Medical Network. “Providing vaccinations and healthcare monitoring to Tyson employees is the next step in a comprehensive approach to fighting COVID-19 and establishing new ways of maintaining workplace health and safety for the future.”
The campaign is expected to begin in early 2021 and continue for the remainder of the year. Availability of the vaccine varies from state to state, but Tyson said its strategy includes accessibility to any employee who wants it at the earliest possible opportunity. Since the onset of the pandemic, Tyson has hired a chief medical officer and added a staff of 200 medical professionals, bringing its occupational health staff to about 600 people. Testing, monitoring and assessing workers’ health has been the priority of the company’s health professionals leading up to the development and launch of approved vaccines in the United States. Tyson reported investing $540 million to protect its workers in the past year, including interventions and employee screenings in its plants to providing medical consulting and testing.
“Providing vaccine education and accessibility is a critical part of our ongoing commitment to put the health and safety of our team members first,” said Dean Banks, Tyson’s president and chief executive officer.
“Tyson workers are bravely serving on the front lines so that millions of families can put food on the table during this crisis. Protecting these essential workers is vital to keeping our nation’s food supply secure as the pandemic worsens, and this new Tyson partnership is a critical step toward achieving that," said Mark Lauritsen, vice president, United Food and Commercial Workers International. "As the largest union for America’s food processing workers, UFCW will continue to work with industry leaders like Tyson in a unified effort to expedite vaccinations for workers who are essential to keeping our communities strong at this critical point in the pandemic."
Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of steps the company has taken to fight new waves of the coronavirus, including the strategic testing of workers without symptoms. The company has invested more than $540 million to transform its US facilities with protective measures, from walk-through temperature scanners and workstation dividers to social distance monitors and always-on testing, as well as provide additional team member pay and benefits. It is also working with outside health experts, expanding its health services staff, and plans to pilot health clinics for team members and their families early this year.
Tyson Foods is using testing as a tool and estimates more than half of its workforce has been tested for COVID-19. The company is currently testing thousands of workers per week as part of its monitoring strategy. In addition to testing those with symptoms or who have been in close contact with someone who has the virus, the company is also proactively testing workers who have no symptoms.