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Tyson Begins Vaccinating Employees

Kassidy Arena
Employees of the Tyson plant in Perry started to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the plant on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. "We appreciate the state of Iowa recognizing the essential role they play in feeding the world," Tyson's Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Tom Brower said.

Tyson Foods began vaccinating their employees today at their plants in Perry and Waterloo.

Tyson partnered with local health departments and Hy-Vee to distribute and administer the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to their employees.

A spokesperson for the company said Tyson is expecting many of its 13,000 Iowa employees to get vaccinated. They have prepared to vaccinate workers who want the vaccine, but that’s not all of them.

Jorge Iván Soto has been working as an advocate for Tyson workers in Perry since the pandemic began. He said some of the workers he has talked to are hesitant about taking the vaccine.

“A lot of them just feel apprehensive of taking this because they feel like there haven't been enough studies done and they felt like this specific vaccine, the one they're going to be given, if it’s not Moderna, then it was rolled out too quickly," Soto said. "And there's just not enough research.”

One supervisor he knows plans on getting the vaccine to show others it's okay. Soto said that could have a "domino effect," but some other people he has spoken to want to wait.

He said the workers he has talked to feel more confident about the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines since they received authorization from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first.

The state released the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to 17 counties with populations "who are frontline essential workers in food, agriculture, distribution, and manufacturing sectors and who live or work in settings that make social distancing unfeasible."

Courtesy Tyson Foods
Tyson Foods team members receive Covid-19 vaccines from health officials at the Perry, Iowa, facility on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

According to the CDC, 328,024 Pfizer vaccines have been administered in Iowa and 414,362 Moderna vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine proved to be 95 percent effective against preventing COVID-19 and the Moderna proved to be 94.1 percent effective.

The Johnson & Johnson version has a lower effectiveness than the other two at 72 percent, but it was 85 percent effective in "severe or critical disease." The CDC recommends all vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19.

The Tyson spokesperson said the company expects all Perry employees who want the vaccine should have it by the end of the week. They plan to share more details as they are available.

Soto said Tyson needs to remain as transparent as possible when it comes to releasing information about the vaccination process to their employees.

“There's just a lot of apprehension and a lot of tense moments of intense feelings with these workers. And again, like, I can't really blame them," Soto said, citing the company's history dealing with COVID-19.

He said Tyson should inform employees as much as possible about the vaccine. Soto said those who are planning on getting it aren't as confident.

"They're getting it reluctantly. And I just wish people would have more confidence in the vaccination process for them to actually, like, seek out these vaccines," Soto said.

But he said overall, it’s a good thing Tyson has begun vaccinating workers. "I do think this is a good starting step towards getting everybody the best protections and safety measures that they can possibly get," Soto added.

Soto clarified that the employees he has worked with are not anti-vaccine, they just want a higher sense of security about the vaccination process and the vaccine itself.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines