In an effort to keep its staff healthy and the food chain intact, Leadbetter Foods in Orillia has set up an in-house booster clinic for its employees.
About 300 local Leadbetter employees will have the opportunity to get immunized with their third shot later this week as the Omicron variant surges and creates outbreaks across various industries around the globe.
“Food and Beverage Ontario is advising the province on how to keep food production workers going to work. So, we thought if we can get this booster clinic going, we’ll continue going at the same rate that we have been of keeping people working,” says Doug Alexander, Leadbetter Foods vice president of technical services.
For almost the entirety of the pandemic, Leadbetter Foods has had strict testing and personal protection equipment policies in place, notes Alexander. The long-time local company has managed to avoid any serious outbreaks.
Alexander, who is a member of Meat and Poultry Ontario, was approached just before Christmas by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) about hosting a vaccine clinic for employees.
“It is so hard to get a booster right now, there were so many delays just before Christmas if you tried to book, so I thought you know what, I’ll do whatever it takes to protect our employees in this kind of climate,” he said.
Alexander contacted a friend who is a nurse who is also a member of the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers, a roller derby team based out of Coldwater.
“It turns out that there are a lot of nurses on that team, so I said to my friend if you guys want to do our vaccinations, and if I can secure enough health care human resources, I’ll be able to run enough clinics at six sites that are willing to participate,” Alexander explained.
The provincial government gave Leadbetter Foods the OK to run six different clinics as long as they committed to getting over 1,000 workers in the industry vaccinated. In addition to clinics for its own staff, Leadbetters is also hosting clinics for employees from other food-related industries.
Leadbetter Foods has been training its own employees on the provincial COVAX system, and six nurses will be vaccinating employees starting on Thursday.
“We are paying the nurses overtime rates because it’s their days off. We are managing our clinics on the days they aren’t working, and we have these girls pooling their efforts together with our employees, while training with the minister of health,” Alexander said.
Leadbetter Foods has turned office cubicles into a professional, safe, and health-unit approved vaccine clinic. Even Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop has offered to volunteer during the clinic, Alexander noted.
Alexander says getting the booster into employees this week is crucial for keeping the food production industry stable.
“We are in a race against time with the Omicron variant, and that’s why we decided to figure out how to do this ourselves and get our employees the booster before the wave grows any higher,” he said.
“If we can get our people two weeks of immunity built-in, in two weeks when it’s really bad here, these folks will still be able to come to work.”
If all goes well, Alexander says Leadbetter Foods is considering setting up a future vaccine clinic for family and friends.