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UFW Foundation calls for prioritizing farmworkers in COVID-19 vaccinations

Wonderful protest (copy)

In this file photo from before the COVID-19 pandemic, farmworkers rest near orange trees on Merced Avenue near Highway 65. 

The head of the United Farm Workers Foundation, while announcing Tuesday the organization had been named to a state committee helping guide the rollout of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, asserted ag workers should be "among the first" to receive vaccinations.

"Farm workers must be prioritized and also have access to factual, scientific information about vaccines in the languages and indigenous dialects they speak," UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres said in a news release.

The statement came a little more than a month after the California Department of Public Health released an interim draft of the state's plan for distributing and administering vaccines that could help end the pandemic. It prioritized vaccinations for Hispanics, who across the state account for two in five residents but three in five COVID-19 infections.

"One of the primary efforts of the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee" — the entity the UFW Foundation is now part of, along with more than five dozen other organizations representing diverse constituencies — "will be to help ensure vaccine planning supports all Californians, but particularly for individuals in communities that are disproportionally impacted, including Latinos, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other Asians including Filipinos," the interim draft report stated.

Tellefson Torres stated the UFW Foundation will work to make sure farmworkers in rural areas receive vital information about the virus "and assure members of the community that being vaccinated is safe and vital once the life-saving immunizations become available."

A spokeswoman for the Kern County Public Health Department noted by email the state has made equitable distribution and administration an "overarching principle," and that first in line would be "those with the highest risk of becoming infected and spreading COVID-19."

"We continue to work with the state as we plan to receive and distribute the COVID-19 vaccines in Kern County, and await direction on how to distribute vaccines to identified priority groups," spokeswoman Michelle Corson wrote.