Protected: Hazeldenes Chickens worker Greg Exon was one of the staff members vaccinated as part of Bendigo Health’s outreach program. Photo: SUPPLIED

Vaccine blitz for region’s meat workers

June 17, 2021 BY

MORE than two hundred workers at Hazeldenes Chickens have been vaccinated as part of Bendigo Health’s latest outreach program.

Staff from BH visited workers at the poultry proccing facility at Lockwood, as well as pork producer KR Castlemaine to administer vaccines last week.

Chair of Bendigo Health Bob Cameron said meat production sites have been identified as a high-risk environment for the spread of coronavirus.

“The meat industry we know, because it’s a damp environment, there’s a lot of people that work in very close proximity, they can be higher risk sites,” he said.

“What we want to do is see those sites vaccinated so those industries can keep working.

“It’s important if we want to have meat but it’s also important for all of those jobs and what those industries do.”

“We would like to see over 2000 people vaccinated. It’s a big ask but we know that we have to come here because so many of the workers here find it difficult to get into town.”

In October last year, a coronavirus outbreak affected Hazeldenes, forcing the Lockwood site to close.

“Last year we saw coronavirus spread in many meat works and we know that because people are working in close proximity and in a damper environment that coronavirus spreads much quicker so it’s really important that these industries are vaccinated,” Mr Cameron said.

Director John Hazeldene said he hopes the business is never in that position again.

“We had 800,000 chickens that were growing every week and we could process them because it’s automated but we had no workers to pack them, so we wasted so many birds,” he said.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in business.

“The vaccination is vitally important and if that gets us through and stops us ever having to go through any lockdowns again, we’d certainly be encouraging everyone to get the vaccination.”

Mr Hazledene said he hopes to see most of the workers at the site vaccinated.

“I think we’ll get a fairly good uptake; I think most of our workers are pretty common sense and they realise that they don’t want to go through what we went through last year,” he said

“We can’t make it compulsory but we’re certainly encouraging them to get the jab.”

Since the outbreak, workers at Hazeldenes have been wearing masks and working in segregated areas.

“I think it’s just a great thing to do, we’ve got bubbles basically, we try to keep areas separate from others, we’re trying to be as safe as we can be,” Mr Hazledene said.