Coronavirus: Tyson Foods to require vaccinations for all US workers

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Tyson Foods, the largest meat and poultry processor in the U.S., will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all its employees nationwide in the coming months, company officials announced Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

The company’s leadership will be required to be vaccinated by Sept. 24, while employees in Tyson’s U.S. offices will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 1 and all other team members will be required to be vaccinated by Nov. 1.

Officials said they were still negotiating the details with unions for employees represented by the groups.

“We did not take this decision lightly,” Tyson Foods President and CEO Donnie King said in a memo to employees. “We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today, under half of our team members are. We take this step today because nothing is more important than our team members’ health and safety, and we thank them for the work they do, every day, to help us feed this country, and our world.”

>> Related: Coronavirus: Woman pleads with unvaccinated to reconsider after husband’s double lung transplant

Tyson is also offering members of its frontline workforce $200 to get fully vaccinated. Previously, the company announced that it would compensate workers for up to four hours of pay if they get vaccinated outside of their normal shift or outside of a vaccination event hosted by Tyson.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” Dr. Claudia Coplein, Tyson Foods’ chief medical officer, said Tuesday in a statement. “With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.”

>> Related: Coronavirus: Total US COVID-19 cases top 35 million

Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in several Tyson facilities since the beginning of the pandemic, sickening hundreds of workers. Company officials said Tyson has spent more than $700 million to combat the spread of COVID-19 through purchases of masks, face shields, temperature scanners, protective barriers and more. Since February, the company has hosted more than 100 vaccination events for team members nationwide. More than 56,000 of the company’s employees have so far been vaccinated.

>> Related: Coronavirus: 570 employees test positive at Tyson plant in North Carolina

As of Monday, about 50% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including about 61% of all adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials have said that vaccination protects people well against severe or life-threatening COVID-19 infections, with a vast majority of deaths and hospitalizations being seen in unvaccinated individuals.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 35.1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported nationwide, resulting in over 613,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.