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Industry seeks COVID-19 vaccination priority for food, ag workers

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Food industry groups strongly support prioritizing essential workers for first to receive COVID-19 vaccine.

Once a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, members of the food and agricultural supply chain wrote a letter to President Donald Trump saying it is imperative that there is a federally orchestrated vaccine distribution program and prioritization of vaccination among population groups that includes prioritizing essential food workers.

In the letter, the food industry groups said they strongly support prioritizing essential workers in critical infrastructure industries, including those responsible for ensuring the continuity of the U.S. food supply. “Prioritizing vaccinations for food, agriculture, retail and [consumer packaged goods] workers will be a key intervention to help keep workers healthy and to ensure that agricultural and food supply chains remain operating,” the letter noted.

If the initial supply is limited, the Administration’s "COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations" considers prioritizing four groups for COVID-19 vaccinations: (1) health care personnel, i.e., paid and unpaid people serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials, (2) non-health care essential workers, (3) adults with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness and (4) people 65 years of age and older, including those living in long-term care facilities.

The industry groups also asked to begin a strong, coordinated publication education campaign as soon as possible to ensure widespread and sustained acceptance of vaccination.

Challenges have taxed the food supply chain over the past eight months, but the food, agriculture, manufacturing and retail industries are resilient, and the supply chains have not broken, the letter noted.

“The agricultural, food manufacturing, distribution and retail industries will continue to fulfill the ‘special responsibility’ critical infrastructure industries carry, and we are proud that our industry’s workforce has selflessly persevered to feed America,” the letter said. “We also look forward to partnering with the Administration to reinforce the importance and safety of vaccinations and ensuring our essential workers can access and receive vaccinations when available.”

The letter was signed by the American Bakers Assn., American Frozen Food Institute, Consumer Brands Assn., FMI – The Food Industry Assn., Global Cold Chain Alliance, International Dairy Foods Assn., National Automatic Merchandising Assn., National Confectioners Assn., National Grocers Assn., National Restaurant Assn., North American Millers Assn., North American Meat Institute, Peanut & True Nut Processors Assn., SNAC International and United Fresh.

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