Workers at meat-packing plants in Alberta, including Olymel in Red Deer, can be vaccinated beginning this week. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Workers at meat-packing plants in Alberta, including Olymel in Red Deer, can be vaccinated beginning this week. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Meat-packing plant workers can be vaccinated starting Tuesday

The provincial government will begin offering vaccinations for workers at meat-packing plants in Alberta, including Olymel in Red Deer.

The more than 15,000 workers at 136 federal and provincial plants across the province can get vaccinated starting Tuesday.

Meat-packing plant workers were identified as eligible in Phase 2C of the government’s vaccine rollout plan, but delays in vaccine supply prevented government from starting that program until now, said Minister of Health Tyler Shandro.

“Health officials have long been working on plans to vaccinate workers at meat-packing plants,” Shandro said.

“These workplaces have certainly borne their share of the burden of COVID-19, and I am relieved and pleased that we can now offer vaccine to this next group in Phase 2C.”

Workers at federal meat-packing plants will be immunized using a combination of primary care network clinics, public health clinics or linkages to local pharmacies or AHS immunization sites.

Once these clinics have been completed, any workers who have not been vaccinated will be provided with a letter from their employer that they can present at an AHS immunization clinic or pharmacy to receive the vaccine. They will also be able to use the AHS booking tool.

At provincial meat-packing plants, which are typically smaller, employers will receive a list of AHS clinics and pharmacies in their area, and a letter that their employees can use to establish their eligibility to be immunized.

The Cargill plant at High River will be the focus of a pilot clinic led by a team of researchers from the University of Calgary. This clinic will address vaccine hesitancy by providing translated materials and on-site translators at the plant.

All workers will be offered a single vaccine dose within next few weeks as long as vaccines arrive as scheduled, Shandro added.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said it’s “critical” to protect workplaces where large outbreaks can happen quickly.

“Immunizing workers at meat-packing plants will go a long way to help keep these workers, their families and communities safe. Immunization is key for Alberta to move forward past this pandemic,” said Hinshaw.

Additionally, Alberta is also expanding those eligible under Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout. Youth born between 2006 and 2009 with underlying health conditions, are now eligible to book appointments for their vaccine. A doctor’s note is required to book an appointment with participating pharmacies and AHS.

Alberta’s decision to reduce the eligibility age is based on emerging research showing safety and efficacy of vaccine in this age group and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s recommendation for the Pfizer vaccine.

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