Vaccine program starts Tuesday for Alberta meatpacking plant workers
CALGARY -- A program to vaccinate 15,000 employees working at 136 federally certified meat processing facilities in Alberta will begin on Tuesday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced during an afternoon update.
Bookings can be made starting Tuesday and vaccinations will be done at some worksites, as well as through AHS clinics and at pharmacies and Shandro said the overall timeline will depend on vaccine availability.
Earlier this month, Alberta Health Services announced plans for an immunization clinic for staff at the Cargill meat plant outside of High River, Alta. The initiative was postponed as a result of shipment delays with the Moderna vaccine.
The Cargill facility was closed for two weeks in the spring of 2020 after 951 of the 2,200 staff members contracted COVID-19. Two employees died as a result of their confirmed cases as well as the father of a worker who contracted the virus.
Shandro adds that Alberta remains on pace to offer vaccines to all adults in the province by the end of June now that Ottawa is "finally ramping up" supply.
A long-time employee of the facility, Danuta Kroeker, says news of the vaccine clinic has employees satisfied.
“People they are so looking forward,” she said.
“It is amazing and this is just another layer of protection for all the employees.”
Kroeker, who has worked at the facility for nearly 29 years as a quality control technician, says she and her husband received their first shot three weeks ago, after they qualified under the bracket of having underlying health conditions.
Kroeker’s husband is also an employee at Cargill.
United Food and Commercial Worker Local 401, which represents workers, say about 70 to 75 per cent of workers signed up last week to reserve a spot to be vaccinated.
Kroeker says it was disappointing this clinic was unable to start last week.
“The company did amazing job and unfortunately the province didn’t deliver,” she said.
“I don’t know more details about it (and) what happened, but we didn’t get those vaccinations.”
Cargill has faced legal challenges and criticism about workplace safety at the onset of the pandemic, but Kroeker says those issues have been ratified.
“It is basically safe for us to go and work, and that is what is important,” she said.