The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is asking that pork industry workers be given at least equal billing with shopping mall St. Nicks on any priority list for who should receive the vaccine for the novel H1N1 flu virus.

Several groups representing hundreds of Kris Kringles this week asked that Santa Claus be given priority consideration for the H1N1 vaccine for humans.

NPPC recently wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asking that swine workers, swine veterinarians and employees of pork processing plants be placed on the H1N1 vaccine priority list.

NPPC said it recognizes the importance of providing the vaccine to children, the elderly and pregnant women, along with Santa Claus, but stressed because of their proximity to swine, and the fact that there has already been human-to-swine transmission of the H1N1 virus, pork industry workers also should be provided the vaccine.

In its letter to the CDC, the NPPC cited the position of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) on the issue: “The AASV strongly advises that all personnel working in the pork production industry be vaccinated against seasonal influenza annually and against any novel human influenza A viruses as they emerge. Vaccination enhances protection for personnel while minimizing the likelihood of viral transmission from personnel to pigs.”

CDC has asked a panel of vaccine and public health experts for priority list recommendations. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has passed on its recommendations to state and local public health departments, which will tailor vaccination plans and priorities, based on their respective population needs.

“Santa Claus is among our most revered figures, maybe even more than Oprah,” says NPPC President Don Butler, “ but – and I hope I don’t get on his naughty list for this – inoculating pork industry workers to ensure that our pigs remain healthy, we feel, is at least as important – if not more so – as keeping Father Christmas from getting the flu.”