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Tyson Foods said Tuesday it will require its 120,000 U.S. workers to be vaccinated by November, making it the largest food company so far to mandate vaccinations in an industry beleaguered by coronavirus outbreaks.
Less than half of Tyson’s workforce is vaccinated, chief executive Donnie King said Tuesday in a memo to employees.
Tyson leadership will have to be vaccinated by Sep. 24, while other office workers will have until Oct. 1.
Front-line Tyson workers will have until Nov. 1 and will receive a $200 bonus with proof of vaccination.
The recent surge of the delta variant has left companies scrambling to adapt to a shifting landscape of mask and vaccination requirements.
Until now, the list of U.S. companies requiring broader vaccine mandates has been dominated by tech giants and white-collar companies such as Google, Facebook, Uber and Morgan Stanley.
Walt Disney announced a mandate last week, but it only applies to its salaried and non-union hourly workers.
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is requiring vaccinations for its corporate employees but officials stopped short of mandating vaccinations for hourly workers at stores.
But Tyson’s sweeping mandate marks a shift in how some companies with employees who work in proximity to one another may be reconsidering their role in preventing the spread of the virus.
“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” Claudia Coplein, Tyson’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.
“With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.”
Mandates from companies such as Tyson — whose employees work in conditions more conducive to virus spread — are more likely to have an impact on nationwide vaccination rates, according to Laura Boudreau, an assistant professor of economics at Columbia University.
“From a public health perspective, for these types of mandates to really move the needle on public health, they need to apply to employee groups who would otherwise not get vaccinated,” Boudreau said.
“If we start to see companies like Walmart or Amazon adopt mandates for their warehouse or retail staff, that would be a big change.”