SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Tyson Foods is one of the latest businesses to require staff to get vaccinated against COVID -19. A decision the company says will help protect its team members, their families and the community.

Tyson Foods made the announcement back in August giving staff a few months to get the vaccine or face losing their job.

A spokesperson tells us Tyson has approved some religious and medical exemptions. As of Friday, Oct. 29, the company says over 96% of its active staff members in the U.S. are vaccinated.

The company has several facilities including the ones in Springdale, Rogers and Fort Smith.

Tyson shared this statement saying quote:

“The health and safety of our team members is our top priority, which is why we made the decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations. We don’t want any of our team members to leave Tyson Foods and have worked hard to listen to them and address their questions and concerns about the vaccines. We’ve also been providing religious and medical accommodations based on careful consideration of individual facts and our commitment to health and safety. Today, more than 96% of our active team members in the U.S. are vaccinated. As our CEO mentioned earlier this week, any team member will have the opportunity to return to work and rejoin Tyson if they’re willing to get vaccinated. Our doors are open.”

Despite the high vaccination rate for the company, not everyone was on board with the mandate. People voiced their concerns and even protested the vaccine requirement in august calling for medical freedom.

KNWA spoke to the Department of Health about the role employers play in getting folks vaccinated. State Epidemiologist, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha says it’s too early to tell how vaccine mandates are impacting overall rates for the state.

However, she encourages employers to make sure that their staff has an opportunity to have their concerns and questions addressed when it comes to COVID-19.

She adds that it’s important that employers make resources available to their staff to have the most accurate and reliable information.

“I think it is very helpful for people to become informed not only about the vaccine but also what we are learning about the problems and the long-term complications of COVID-19,” said Dr. Dillaha.

She adds that will help people make more informed decisions and better weigh ou the risks of getting the vaccines versus the risks of the illness.

During the pandemic, Tyson Foods hired its first Chief Medical Officer to help in its COVID-19 response. The company made vaccinations available on site and also offered several incentives to encourage its staff to get the shot.

Tyson shared that one important factor to its vaccination rate was working with its team members making sure those who had concerns, had those addressed.

Tyson Foods says all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated prior to their start date.