SPRINGDALE, ARK. – In an effort to maximize the number of employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Tyson Foods Inc. announced on Feb. 17 provisions to pay its workers for up four hours of their regular rate of compensation if they choose to either be vaccinated by a third-party health care provider or at one of its US plants offering free, on-site vaccinations. The company said it administered several hundred vaccinations to its more vulnerable workers, including those in health service roles and employees over the age of 65 and plans to vaccinate 1,000 front-line workers this week at plants in Illinois, Missouri and Virginia.

Tyson began vaccinating workers in early February, at its Wilkesboro, NC, plant. On-site vaccinations at plants are offered in accordance with regulations prioritizing eligible recipients based on risk factors and based on availability. The company’s vaccination program, which includes educating workers about the safety factors, is being implemented in partnership with Matrix Medical Network .

“I appreciate the company’s efforts to secure vaccines for us,” said Tim Adams, a worker at the Wilkesboro facility who has worked at Tyson for 47 years.

The company said employees are “highly encouraged” to receive the vaccination, but participation is voluntary. The North American Meat Institute recently held a webinar focused on legal considerations for employers in the meat and poultry sector as vaccine availability becomes more widespread.  

“I’m in a high-risk category due to my health,” Adams said, “so for me it was an easy decision to get vaccinated. It’s the next logical step in keeping myself and those around me healthy and safe.”

Tyson officials said providing pay for workers time spent getting the vaccination is designed to ensure that employees who want the vaccine will have access when it becomes available. The company said it is having success in protecting workers from the virus and the incidence of the virus among its US employees remains low.

“This incentive is an additional way we can encourage our front-line workers to receive the vaccination, which we believe is another important protective measure,” said Johanna Söderström, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Tyson. “We’re ready to vaccinate more of our people, especially through the free, on-site vaccination program we’ve developed, however, vaccine availability continues to vary by state.”