27 Feb 2021

Meat industry calls for Covid-19 vaccine priority

8:35 am on 27 February 2021

The meat processing and export industry wants its workforce to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations.

A worker on the frontline of Auckland's Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility being vaccinated against Covid-19 on 20 February 2021.

Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Health

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the industry was considered high-risk, due to the large numbers of people working closely together.

Countries such as Australia, the US and the UK have all had Covid-19 outbreaks at meat processing facilities.

"We saw a significant increase in the spread of Covid in that workforce, which led to the closure of plants," Karapeeva said.

It was unclear who was next in line for the vaccine, once frontline and healthcare workers received it, she said.

"We have been asking the government, we've been working with officials, to get a sense of what is the plan, and how do industries rank?

"There is no room for complacency. It is absolutely critical that we fortify our first line of defence, both for the safety and wellbeing of workers and communities and to safeguard the red meat sector's significant contribution to the New Zealand economy, which is now heavily reliant on our export revenue."

Most meat facillities have nurses on site and could easily undertake vaccination programmes, she said.

The industry could easily track the vaccines for its 25,000 employees, because there were already robust systems in place, Karapeeva added.

"We got the systems in place to actually support the government and its objective to roll out the vaccine in New Zealand as quickly as possible."

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