Perdue Farms is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to coordinate states' policies over who will receive COVID-19 vaccines first, warning that a patchwork of plans threatens the vaccination campaign.
The fourth-largest U.S. poultry producer, in a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield, said many Perdue employees live in one state but work in another because its facilities are located near state borders.
State policies that prioritize different groups for vaccination may do little to stop community spread of the coronavirus if workers are frequently traveling between states, Chief Executive Randy Day said.
He also appealed to the governors of the 15 states in which Perdue operates to coordinate their polices and to prioritize poultry workers and their families in the vaccine rollout.
It has fallen to U.S. states to determine who will be first in line to receive a vaccine as initial doses are limited and strong federal guidance is lacking. State vaccine-distribution plans reviewed by Reuters have shown broad discrepancies over who would be vaccinated first.
"Inconsistent policies between states where our associates work and live will only add to confusion and will potentially be detrimental to vaccine participation," Day said.
The meat industry is ramping up a campaign to put its workers toward the front of the line for vaccines after massive COVID-19 outbreaks shut slaughterhouses this spring and tightened meat supplies.
More than 20,000 meatpacking workers have been infected or exposed to the virus, and at least 130 have died, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Meat-industry groups have asked every governor to prioritize meat and poultry workers for vaccination, following health care workers and those in long-term care facilities.
Perdue Farms said it could vaccinate employees at most of its processing facilities and help government officials with multilingual education efforts.
Smithfield Foods, the world's biggest pork processor, has offered to help store vaccines.