Seafood industry urges states to keep workers near front of the COVID vaccination line
As the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines continues across the United States, discussions are now taking place to determine the groups that should receive the vaccine after nursing home residents and staff and essential health care workers. Food processing businesses, including those in the seafood industry, are urging leaders in their respective states to keep them toward the front of the line.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines, food and agricultural workers fall into Phase 1b of the essential workers category, along with first responders, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those in education.
Despite the federal recommendations, though, each state is responsible for managing the vaccination process in the state, and leaders in the food industry are making sure they are considered essential workers.
“We are working with government at all levels to ensure that the critical infrastructure workers fighting to keep America’s families fed are appropriately considered when determining distribution priority, and look forward to helping to distribute vaccines to our workforce as soon as they become available,” Anthony Dal Ponte, Pacific Seafood’s director of legal and government affairs, told SeafoodSource.
On Monday 21 December, the Massachusetts Seafood Coalition, which consists of 33 companies and organizations, submitted a letter to Governor Charlie Baker urging him to abide by the CDC guidelines and stick to a notice he provided regarding vaccine priorities nearly two weeks ago.
The coalition noted that seafood industry workers and businesses have remained on the job since the pandemic began more than 10 months ago.
“[S]eafood workers have been consistently deemed essential, and the seafood supply chain has been deemed part of the nation’s critical infrastructure by federal agencies,” the coalition wrote. “All Americans depend on these women and men to harvest, process, and distribute healthy foods.”
The letter is similar to one the New Jersey Seafood Coalition wrote to Governor Phil Murphy last week. That group consists of 10 groups and businesses.
“By prioritizing vaccinations, for the captains and crews of the New Jersey-based commercial fishing vessels that sustainably harvest from our seas to those who process our seafood, you will help ensure these essential men and women continue to be safe and ensure continuity of the food supply to the U.S. population,” the New Jersey coalition wrote to Murphy.
In Phase 1c of the CDC’s recommendations, the category under food processors, are foodservice workers.
Earlier this month, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, which represents more than 300,000 workers responsible for getting food to restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that offer food away from an in-home settings, urged governors and health officials nationwide to ensure these workers receive the first round of doses.
“It is critical that the men and women who work in the warehouses and drive the trucks to deliver these products can safely continue to fulfill their vital mission,” IFDA President and CEO Mark Allen said.
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