Hundreds of Olymel workers will get on-site vaccinations at Red Deer’s meat processing plant this week to prevent wide-scale COVID-19 outbreaks as viral cases in the province rise.
As extra incentive, the company is promising workers a $50 bonus to get vaccinated — $25 for each shot, said Olymel spokesperson Richard Vigneault on Monday.
“Of course we tell them the most important thing is to prevent COVID-19, which could (cause) severe illness — but this is an extra push,” he added.
“I hope people will accept this as the situation in Alberta is not good.”
Vigneault was referring to the upwards of 1,600 new cases of COVID-19 being reported in the province daily. This is the highest number in the country, on a per-capita basis.
So far, 500 Olymel workers have signed up to get their first dose of Moderna at the Red Deer plant from Tuesday through Thursday.
And Vigneault believes sign ups could increase as the week goes on.
There are about 1,800 employees at the pork processing facility. But many were previously eligible to get vaccinated at community clinics and already received their first shots, said Vigneault.
Earlier this year, Olymel had about 500 cases of COVID-19 and four fatalities, including three workers who died. Vigneault said on Monday that five workers have yet to recover and return to their jobs.
The company and Alberta Health are trying to get more people vaccinated before the third wave, fuelled by virus variants, begins impacting meat processing facilities.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced last week that vaccinations would be available for all meat-packing employees across the province. Shots will be offered to more than 15,000 workers at 136 federal and provincial plants in the province.
“An on-site clinic will be held at Olymel in the coming days. In addition, any worker can book an appointment through a participating pharmacy or AHS,” said Alberta Health’s assistant communications director, Tom McMillan on Monday.
Last week, vaccination clinics were held at the Cargill plant in High River and the JBS Foods facility in Brooks.
Thomas Hesse, president of the Canadian Food Workers Local 401, had told local media that an overwhelming majority of the workers wanted a vaccine to stay safe. He expressed cautious optimism and a sense of relief.