Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork producer, said that it had offered to help health officials store Covid-19 vaccines in their “ultra-cold” freezers as part of a nationwide distribution push.
The company is “ready and willing to assist health agencies should storage capacity become constrained,” chief administrative officer, Keira Lombardo, told Reuters in a statement on Thursday.
Health officials across the US are racing to secure proper freezer space needed to store the coronavirus vaccine.
Pfizer’s version needs to be stored at minus 70 Celsius, far colder than the norm for most vaccines, while Moderna’s needs temperatures of minus 20.
Smithfield plants have previously experienced coronavirus outbreaks among workers. Meatpacking is done quickly and in close quarters, by workers who are disproportionately people of colour, and more likely to be affected by the virus.
Meatpacking workers are considered essential in many states, but aren’t expected to top the list for getting the vaccine, with early doses expected to go to health workers and nursing home residents.
Labor groups have asked president Trump and presiden-elect Biden to secure priority access to the vaccine for meatpacking workers as well.