California, We Must Prioritize Farm Workers in State's Vaccination Plan
On behalf of the COVID-19 Farmworker and Rural Immigrant Community Advocacy Coalition, we are pleased to release our first policy brief on why farm workers and their communities should be a priority population in the state’s Vaccination Plan.
California’s 800,000 agricultural workers are an essential workforce responsible for sustaining California’s $50 billion agricultural industry and the production of America’s fresh food supply. Since the beginning of the pandemic, farm workers have faced higher exposure to COVID-19 than other workers due to exposure in the fields, in the commute to work, and in extremely overcrowded housing that of their co-workers, families and communities.
Farm workers fall into many high risk categories for COVID-19 and should be given the highest priority in vaccine distribution when a safe and effective one becomes available. Given the reticence and inability of California’s agricultural workers to access the American healthcare system, work needs to begin now to educate farm worker communities and prepare them for the eventual vaccinations that will keep them and their communities safe.
The nation’s food system and the health of rural California are at stake during COVID-19. Given the heightened risk of COVID-19 that California farm workers, their families and communities face, farm workers should be given the highest priority in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Overcoming systemic health access barriers and the reluctance of farm workers to seek services requires specific planning and concerted outreach and education efforts to farm worker communities if California is to be successful in equitable vaccine distribution.