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Vaccination clinic at Alberta’s Cargill meat-packing plant postponed

Cargill beef plant is shown in High River Alta., on Thursday, April 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic for thousands of workers at a southern Alberta beef-packing plant has been postponed due to a lack of vaccine.

Immunization at the Cargill plant was introduced as part of Phase 2C of the province’s vaccine roll-out plan in early April.

Read more: Plans underway for COVID-19 vaccination clinic at southern Alberta meat-packing plant

The clinic, which was scheduled to open Thursday, was to immunize 2,200 workers at the plant near High River, Alta. south of Calgary.

“The Cargill vaccination clinic hasn’t been cancelled — it’s been postponed,” said Tom McMillan, a spokesman with Alberta Health. “The shipment of Moderna vaccine that was to be given at Cargill was delayed.”

McMillan said the clinic will be rescheduled as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

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Last spring, nearly half the workers at the Cargill plant contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died. The meat-packer shut down for two weeks.

Click to play video: 'Kenney says government was ‘very transparent’ about COVID-19 at High River Cargill plant' Kenney says government was ‘very transparent’ about COVID-19 at High River Cargill plant
Kenney says government was ‘very transparent’ about COVID-19 at High River Cargill plant – Apr 1, 2021

“We are disappointed with the news that our vaccine clinic has been postponed, but remain ready to help facilitate vaccines for our employees once they are available,” Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said in a statement.

“We’re optimistic that vaccines will play a critical role in slowing and stopping the devastating impacts of COVID-19 across the globe.”

Immunizations were to be provided by occupational health nurses with Cargill and by doctors with local primary health networks.

Thomas Hesse, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which represents the employees, said the development is a blow to worker morale.

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“We were advised through AHS that this was going to happen, that Cargill was going to be first. The vaccination was going to be available starting Thursday to Cargill employees that wanted it,” Hesse said.

“I think it was an opportunity for them to restore some trust. Now we’re left feeling hollow and flat.”

Read more: COVID-19: Documents renew calls for public inquiry into Cargill outbreak in Alberta

Hesse said there should have been a way for Alberta Health to redistribute some Moderna vaccine from other sectors.

“I call upon them to work towards vaccinating these essential workers, a place that needs it so much, a place with a horrific history.”

He said Cargill workers will continue to remain at risk the longer vaccinations are delayed.

“Every minute, every nook, cranny, every breath of air that they take — these essential workers are at risk. Many of them are disadvantaged citizens and are at the highest of risk.”

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