Peter Pan Seafood announced Wednesday, 1 September, it will require all shoreside employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as case numbers are on the rise in the U.S. states of Alaska and Washington.
The company’s new policy will go into effect by tiers. The first tier will pick up the remaining 5 percent of unvaccinated workers at processing plants and support facilities around Bristol Bay, Alaska, and at its Valdez processing plant, as well as at warehouses in Washington. All employees in tier one must be fully vaccinated by 1 October. Employees at the Peter Pan facility in King Cove, Alaska, face mandatory vaccination under Peter Pan’s tier two timeline. The vaccine policy does not extend to the fleet, but Peter Pan said it encourages its fishermen to get the vaccine and it said it will help them get vaccine appointments in Seattle or Alaska.
Peter Pan President Rodger May, part of the new ownership group that took over the company at the beginning of the year, said the vaccine policy was motivated in part by the close quarters at processing facilities, many of which are in remote locations with scarce medical care.
“Requiring employees to be vaccinated is the new gold standard. This is the best way I know to keep them and the communities we work in as healthy as possible. It is as much about the person next to us, our families and our communities as it is about ourselves,” May said.
Like many seafood processing firms in rural Alaska, Peter Pan has operated its facilities as closed campuses in an attempt to protect vulnerable coastal communities. Peter Pan already has high vaccination numbers and has provided opportunities for employees to get vaccinated since the shots became available to workers in Alaska in February of this year, May said.
In a press release, Peter Pan said another factor in implementing the policy was input from employees, customers, and community members where Peter Pan has facilities. The company said it has listened to concerned parties and been extremely cautious about COVID-19 since the change in company leadership took place.
“This policy gives employees peace of mind, especially in an industry like ours where a positive case could mean shutting down an entire facility for a period of time,” May said.
The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday, 1 September, that Alaska had its second-highest number of new COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 801 new infections. Hospitalizations were also at a record high, and the state department of health reported that 55 percent of Alaskans were fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 outbreaks have plagued processing facilities and catcher-processor vessels in Alaska for more than a year, causing shutdowns and work stoppages.
Photo courtesy of Peter Pan Foods