There’s some promising news on a possible COVID-19 vaccine, with Pfizer and Moderna announcing that trials of their respective vaccines have proven to be 95 effective so far. Both seem headed toward quick approval through FDA’s emergency use authorization.
In a November 11 letter to President Trump, 15 trade groups representing different parts of the food, beverage, and CPG industry have asked have asked for priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, once approved. Similar discussions have occurred with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team.
“Our members have been on the front lines of the response to the pandemic by continuing operations and ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food,” says Adrienne Seiling, vice president of strategic communications for the American Frozen Food Institute, a group that has co-signed the letter. “We sent a letter to the President encouraging his administration—once a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed and approved—to have a federally orchestrated vaccine distribution program and prioritization of vaccination among population groups including critical infrastructure employees, which include the food, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail industries.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination program interim playbook, healthcare workers, non-healthcare essential workers, at-risk adults with underlying medical conditions, and those 65 and older could be prioritized for vaccinations if the supply is initially limited. The food groups that have asked for priority believe that they should be considered “essential workers” as well.
“Challenges have taxed the food supply chain over the past eight months, but the food, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail industries are resilient, and the supply chains have not broken,” the letter stated. “Prioritizing vaccinations for food, agriculture, retail, and CPG workers will be a key intervention to help keep workers healthy and to ensure that agricultural and food supply chains remain operating.”
Other groups that signed the letter include United Fresh, Consumer Brands Association, the North American Meat Institute, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Restaurant Association.
This isn’t the only effort these groups have made, with several writing their own separate letters. For instance, back in September, the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) sent a letter to CDC asking that the CPG industry be prioritized for vaccine allocation. “Worker absenteeism remains a concern in manufacturing facilities, posing a threat to the maintenance of consistent inventories of life-sustaining products,” wrote Betsey Booren, CBA’s senior vice president of regulatory and technical affairs. “Without early vaccinations, the CPG sector risks the absence of skilled workers due to illness and the subsequent negative impacts on the supply chain.”
Recent data shows that more than 72,000 people working in the food and beverage industry, including approximately 49,000 meatpacking workers, have tested positive for COVID-19.