SPRINGDALE, ARK. – Tyson Foods Inc. announced on Aug. 3 that it is requiring its leadership officers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24, its workers in office locations around the country by Oct. 1 and the rest of its employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. Tyson is the largest US food company to require its employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The company’s locations represented by unions are still discussing the vaccination process and requirements.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” said Claudia Coplein, MD, chief medical officer for Tyson Foods. “With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the US unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.”

As an additional incentive, front-line workers will receive a $200 bonus after verifying they are fully vaccination. The company will continue to provide four hours of regular pay compensation if employees are vaccinated outside of their normal shift or at an outside location. Since February, the company has hosted more than 100 vaccination events for employees and more than 56,000 US workers (around half its workforce) have been vaccinated so far.

“We did not take this decision lightly,” Donnie King, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, wrote in a memo to employees. “We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today, under half of our team members are. We take this step today because nothing is more important than our team members’ health and safety, and we thank them for the work they do, every day, to help us feed this country, and our world.”

Exceptions to the vaccination mandate will involve workers who seek medical or religious accommodation.

“Tyson Foods and Matrix Medical have worked together since the beginning of this pandemic to develop and implement strategies to mitigate the risk of the virus to Tyson employees and their families, as well as the communities where they live and work,” said Daniel Castillo, MD, chief medical officer and group president for Matrix Medical. “Matrix clinicians and Tyson team members have worked hand-in-hand to implement a broad array of workplace safety measures at Tyson, and we now feel the rising number of new cases across the US warrants advanced clinical strategies – including requiring vaccinations.”

To date, Tyson Foods has spent more than $700 million on COVID-19-related expenses, including buying masks, face shields and temperature scanners, installing protective barriers and providing on-site testing and vaccinations.