SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas is in Phase 1-B of its vaccination plan, which didn’t include food manufacturing workers until Tuesday. After the announcement moving them up, a Tyson spokesperson said the poultry company’s planning to conduct vaccine drives for workers.
“We look back on the history of our cases and where we had early spikes in cases, breakouts, as well as deaths, and we had a real jeopardy with those that were in the food processing industry,” Hutchinson said. “Again, we wanted to move them in there first because they work close in proximity to each other.”
This includes workers in meat processing, grain and oil milling. Hutchinson said people can get the shots through pharmacies or clinics, but plants can distribute vaccines, as well. Derek Burleson, a Tyson spokesperson, said that’s the plan for the poultry company, which ran similar events in the Midwest.
“Yesterday, we announced we’re vaccinating thousands of workers in Iowa this week alone,” Burleson said. “We expect similar events to that scale here in Arkansas once those vaccines become available.”
Simmons Foods plans to do the same, according to a statement sent by spokesperson Julie Maus.
Simmons Foods applauds Governor Hutchinson’s efforts to protect all Arkansans and we are grateful he has put a priority on people working in food production facilities throughout our state. We look forward to doing our part to vaccinate our team members as supplies of the vaccine become available at our Simmons Care Clinics and continuing to encourage our team members to make vaccination a priority. We will continue to practice all our mask and social distancing protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines.Julie Maus, Simmons Spokesperson
Jackie Tobias’ mother and uncle work for Tyson in various capacities, and each battled COVID during the pandemic. She said she’s excited the company will conduct these vaccination events, but she doesn’t want the company to lax in its social distancing, masking and plexiglass additions.
“I hope that Tyson continues using the measures they’ve taken with social distancing with employees,” Tobias said. “Just because you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you’re immune.”
Burleson said those measures will continue to be implemented, and he said employees will be paid for up to four bonus hours if getting a vaccine causes them to come in early or leave late. He said that applies even to employees who decide to get a shot at an outside clinic.
Kevin Flores is a Springdale city councilmember, and he said the Tuesday announcement is a benefit to the whole community.
“This is wonderful news for many residents of Springdale,” Flores said. “Our poultry workers were hit hard during the first six months of the ongoing pandemic. By providing them access to the vaccine, it won’t only protect them individually but our city as a whole, as well.”