Groups rush to get Florida farmworkers vaccinated – Times of India

MIAMI: It’s a race towards time for nonprofits, organizations and officers who’re making an attempt to vaccinate 1000’s of farmworkers who have been denied precedence entry in Florida however now have to journey north to harvest crops in different areas.
Farmworker advocates are asking officers to shortly mobilize to areas resembling Homestead, south of Miami, and Immokalee, east of Naples, and to be extra lenient when requiring proof of residency now that the state has lowered the vaccine eligibility age. They say many farmworkers are within the nation illegally and do not have a driver’s license or different paperwork required as a substitute.
Top officers with Miami-Dade County instructed activists and farmworkers Wednesday at a digital roundtable on vaccine distribution not to fear in regards to the paperwork and focus as an alternative on outreach and gathering teams of farmworkers prepared to get the shot.
“I think we can handle the IDs. We just need to get the numbers and get the places. I need to know where you want us, how many. That’s what I am looking for,” mentioned Frank Rollason, director of emergency administration for Miami-Dade County.
Groups such because the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, have decried that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t prioritize farmworkers within the state’s vaccine rollout like different governors did. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says she has been asking the governor since December to enable farmworkers to get the shot.
The vaccination plan restricted group clinics from beginning inoculations as a result of many of these populations weren’t but eligible by age. Since January, the state started requiring proof of Florida residency, including one other hurdle for some staff.
DeSantis’s vaccine motto has been “seniors first,” with just a few exceptions resembling individuals with underlying well being circumstances, older law enforcement officials, firefighters and lecturers.
“We were restricted for a long time. Until recently, it was still over 65, and then it was over 50. And most farmworkers are younger than that,” mentioned Dr. Emily Ptaszek, head of the Healthcare Network, a clinic that serves migrant farmworkers in Immokalee.
Florida lowered the age to 40 on Monday and can open it up to everybody subsequent Monday.
Lupe Gonzalo, an organizer on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, says farmworkers are uniquely uncovered to the virus as a result of they typically stay in crowded circumstances and journey collectively in vans or buses. Gonzalo says many of them undergo from medical circumstances that places them at a excessive threat for extreme COVID-19.
“It has been an uphill battle for the county and the state to send resources for our community. Even when they deem us as essential farmworkers, they treat us as if we are disposable,” Gonzalo mentioned.
Last yr, mass testing in rural communities resembling Immokalee had a late begin and solely after the coalition contacted worldwide help group Doctors Without Borders. Immokalee and different immigrant communities skilled outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Florida has about 100,000 farmworkers, and Dr. Ptaszek, from the Immokalee clinic, says about one fifth of these are in Immokalee and shortly many will probably be going north to states like Georgia, Tennessee and New Jersey.
“They start to leave in mid-April. They will be gone completely certainly by June so we have a limited time to get this done,” she mentioned, including she is planning a clinic subsequent week to vaccinate 500 to 600 individuals.
For three days this week, the state’s Division of Emergency Management was vaccinating lots of in Immokalee who meet the state standards. Social media posts circulated telling individuals to take a pay stub as a kind of ID. Teams have been additionally despatched in cellular vans to vaccinate agriculture staff in Homestead.
A Mexican farmworker who lives in Homestead, Florida, mentioned she was fearful when she fell ailing with the virus as a result of she has colleagues who’ve died of COVID-19.
“My job is a pillar of Florida’s economic system, and I’ve a proper to justice, dignity and a COVID vaccine,” mentioned the girl, who agreed to give her identify solely as Cristina.

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