GREELEY, Colo. - The push to get more Americans vaccinated went up a notch after JBS USA and Pilgrim's announced they will give away free beef, pork and chicken for a year to 50 families who get the COVID-19 vaccine at one of the companies’ sponsored clinics.
The companies said the "Your Shot at Free Meat for a Year" program aims to offer inoculations in rural communities where the companies are based, according to a news release.
The companies will set up clinics in more than 40 locations across the country from June 26 to Aug. 31, 2021.
The first round of clinics will take place in Greeley, Colorado.
"Since the onset of the pandemic, JBS USA and Pilgrim’s have been focused on protecting our team members and supporting our communities," JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira said. "Most recently, our focus has been on providing the free opportunity of vaccination to our U.S. team members as a way of helping bring an end to the pandemic."
JBS USA and Pilgrim's both said they had great success in efforting to get their more than 66,000 employees vaccinated. Incentives included a $100 bonus. The companies said nearly 70% of its U.S. workforce has been fully vaccinated.
However, the companies said the vaccination rates are lower in rural communities.
"Vaccination progress in the U.S. has started to slow, with less than half of eligible Americans being fully vaccinated," Pilgrim’s CEO Fabio Sandri said.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the country is averaging fewer than 1 million shots per day. That’s far below April’s peak when the country was averaging more than 3 million shots a day.
According to the CDC, more than 152 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, representing 45.8% of the country’s total population.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden continues to push more Americans to get vaccinated.
The White House acknowledged last week that Biden will fall short of reaching his goal of vaccinating 70% of all American adults with at least one shot by Independence Day. But it said he reached that threshold for those aged 30 and older and expects to meet it for those age 27 or older by the July 4 holiday.
The White House effort to increase vaccinations includes an early summer sprint of incentives and a slew of new steps to ease barriers and make the vaccines more appealing to those who have not received them. Dangling everything from sports tickets to a free beer, Biden is looking for that extra something — anything — that will get people to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots when the promise of a life-saving vaccine by itself hasn’t been enough.
Health officials are also concerned that the more deadly and more dangerous delta COVID-19 variant could also continue to rise among unvaccinated Americans.
"It is the most contagious variant we have ever seen in this pandemic and that’s going to be a huge problem," Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said. "Second, it does look like it’s a bit more deadly than other variants. And there is some evidence that it has more ‘immune escape’ as well. So, it may be one of the first sort of true triple threats."
Health officials said the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are proving effective against the delta variant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.