Tyson Foods Inc. is more than 90% vaccinated ahead of its own vaccine deadline. Where will the rest of the industry soon stand?

A vaccine mandate

In September 2021, President Joe Biden directed the U.S. Department of Labor and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to draft rules requiring all workers for companies of more than 100 employees to either get fully vaccinated or get tested weekly for COVID-19. This move, whenever it becomes official, will affect most of the integrated U.S. poultry industry.

It is unclear how soon the OSHA guidelines will be released and the specifics remain unwritten. If a mandate is coming, employers need to prepare for it.

Tyson reaches 90%

Tyson Chief Medical Officer Dr. Claudia Coplein told the New York Times on September 30, 2021, that more than 90% of its 120,000 U.S. employees are vaccinated. In August 2021, Tyson announced vaccination will be a condition of employment starting November 1, 2021.

In the report, Coplein said when OSHA announces additional details and timelines for vaccine mandates, more companies will likely announce their vaccine requirements. Tyson is not the only major employer to announce a mandate. These actions are succeeding in getting people vaccinated. Workers don’t want to lose their jobs.

Along with the mandate, Tyson is offering incentives – like cash bonuses and paid time off – to support vaccination. Coplein told the New York Times that company executives have visited individual plants to speak directly with employees about the vaccine and has taken other actions to deal with skepticism and fears associated with the COVID-19 vaccines.

The needle meets the arm

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64.6% of the U.S. population received at least one dose of a vaccine and 55.6% are fully vaccinated as of October 1, 2021. Employer mandates will likely push up vaccination further in the coming months.

Recent reports from the Pew Research Center indicate Americans continue to be split on vaccination requirements for public places. As for the Biden Administration’s possible vaccine mandate, 39% say businesses should require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

A vaccination mandate may soon be the law of the land. Based on the early experience of other companies applying mandates, it appears there will be a small minority that quits rather than accepts the vaccine.

The chicken industry could be uniquely challenged because it operates in rural America and in states where vaccination rates are lower. However, when the day comes I believe most will take the jab and keep their job rather than say no and lose it.