One of the nation’s largest meatpackers and the union representing about 26,000 of its employees say a COVID-19 vaccine mandate has led to more than 96% of its workers being inoculated against the virus.

Tyson said Tuesday it has achieved “nearly full vaccination of its active workforce,” including a jump of 60,000 since the company announced its mandate in August. Then, the company declared its U.S. office employees needed to be vaccinated by the beginning of October and extended the same requirement to all other employees to the beginning of November.

“Has this made a difference in the health and safety of our team members? Absolutely,” Tyson President and CEO Donnie King said in a statement to company employees. “We’ve seen a significant decline in the number of active cases, companywide.”

King’s note also acknowledged some employees who opted against receiving one of the available vaccinations.

“I’d also like to say to those who remain unvaccinated – this is your choice, and we respect that choice. If you change your mind and want to rejoin Tyson – let us know. Our doors are open,” he said.

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Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union that represents meatpacking and other food sector workers, celebrated the news and said the mandate could serve as an example to other companies.

“Working together, the UFCW and Tyson set a new standard with this vaccine mandate and have proved what’s possible when we listen to workers and negotiate the implementation of vaccination mandates fairly and responsibly,” he said. “We urge every company, across this country, to do what is right by their frontline workers and work cooperatively with their unions and employees to help end this pandemic and keep all of America’s essential workers and their families safe.”

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