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Oregon seafood company urging all employees to get COVID vaccine

The industry was hit hard with outbreaks in 2020.

PORTLAND, Oregon — A major Oregon seafood company is moving quickly to get its workers vaccinated against COVID-19 now that they are eligible.

Pacific Seafood will hold a mass vaccination event for its Newport workers Friday, April 2, and for its Warrenton workers in mid-April. In the meantime, the company is offering paid time off for workers to go get the shot on their own.

Across Oregon, an estimated 180,000 workers are involved in bringing our food in from the sea and land. Its hard, physical labor that often requires lots of people working close to each other. That’s one reason the food production industry was an easy target for the coronavirus. 

Pacific Seafood had more than 300 cases tied to its plants in 2020. 

The COVID vaccines hold a promise that those days are behind them.

"We view very much the vaccine as the light at the end of a very dark tunnel for us," said Brandie Hogg, the company's human resources director. "We feel like this is something that we are committed to that we really want to see happen so our team can stay safe."

Pacific Seafood is a family-owned, Oregon-based company with 41 locations in 11 states. The company has roughly 800 staff members in Oregon and with the busy season of May and June approaching, the company will hire another 500 workers.

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Despite enforcing physical distancing, daily health checks and physical barriers, the company has not kept COVID away from all its employees. Last week, another eight cases were linked to its operation in Warrenton.

Now, the company hopes to make it easy for workers to get the shots.

"We are removing any roadblocks to getting vaccinated. So we’re working with our local health departments and the Oregon Health Authority to organize vaccine events for our workers – many of them on-site or very close to the plant,” said Hogg.

But in every population, there will be those who do not want to get the shots. It’s a reality that forces companies to decide if they will not just encourage, but require workers to get the shots.

At Pacific Seafood, the answer is no. 

“There’s gonna be a small number of people that aren’t going to get vaccinated. That’s just, you know, what we’re expecting. But if we can get an overwhelming majority, 80% plus is what we’re seeing -- we’re really excited about that,” Hogg said.

Vaccinations will be voluntary.

“We are not requiring it. We are strongly encouraging it. Promoting it, but we’re not making it a requirement,” Hogg added.

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Have a comment or story idea for Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com