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Vaccine is a ‘helpful tool’ for meat plant workers’ health

The director of scientific and regulatory affairs at the North American Meat Institute says the COVID-19 vaccine will be a helpful tool to keep meat processing workers safe as the vaccine enters phase 1B of its rollout plan.

But KatieRose McCullough said the vaccine needs to be used in combination with existing measures. She tells Brownfield meat processors have been able to limit the spread of the virus since it caused packing shutdowns last spring.

“We remained low and in control in meat packing plants,” McCullough said. “There’s always been exceptions, but the current controls and safeguards we have in plants are effective. The vaccine is just another tool, it’s not a silver bullet, nothing is ever going to be. It’s going to be this combination of things.”

NAMI said infection rates in processing plants were five times lower in December than May. NAMI made this estimate using data provided by the Food and Environmental Reporting Network. But FERN said it is hard to make an accurate estimate of the infection rates in processing plants without knowing the total number of COVID cases in the plants.

McCullough said further lowering infection rates in plants will lead to increased stability in livestock markets.

“Stability in the market is something is something we really want to focus on as well and that really does start with our employee’s health,” she said. “And we think that the vaccine will help add to that stability.”

Processing plants were reported to have less than 20 new COVID cases per 100,000 workers a day in December.

KatieRose McCullough Interview

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