Vaccination clinic planned for southern Alberta Cargill meat plant, site of deadly outbreaks

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Alberta Health Services confirms plans are underway to immunize workers at a southern Alberta meat processing plant that was the site of outbreaks of COVID-19 this year and in 2020.

According to AHS, workers at the Cargill facility located outside High River, Alta., south of Calgary, will be vaccinated as part of the Phase 2C rollout, dependent on vaccine availability. The opening date of the on-site clinic has not been released.

The vaccines will be administered by occupational health nurses employed by Cargill. The nurses will receive training and guidance from AHS staff.

The meat processing plant halted operations for two weeks in April 2020 following an outbreak where 951 of the facility's 2,200 workers contracted COVID-19 and two employees died. A father of a worker also died after contracting the virus.

In January, Thomas Hesse, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, called for an expedited approach to vaccinating meat-packing plant workers at Cargill and the JBS Canada plant in Brooks, Alta.  The two sites, which process nearly 70 per cent of the country's beef supply, both had COVID-19 outbreaks in the spring of 2020.

AHS says the pilot program is expected to expand to other meat processing plants in the coming weeks if vaccine supply is available.