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Farmworkers Talk with Agriculture Commissioner about Lack of Vaccines

A Mural at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Headquarters
Michelle Alvarez
A Mural at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Headquarters

Deemed "essential workers," farm laborers have been passed over for vaccines in favor of Florida's white population, according to data which shows four-to-one vaccination rates.

Lupe Gonzalo from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (https://ciw-online.org/) spoke at a Farmworker Roundtable With Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Mayor of Miami-Dade County Daniella Levine Cava on Wednesday.

She spoke about the farmworker community in Immokalee and how they’ve been struggling with the pandemic.

“Even in the pages of The New York Times, farmworkers are uniquely vulnerable and on the front lines of this pandemic,” Gonzalo said. “Because of housing, transportation and working conditions, and because of the health of the farmworkers, who even before this pandemic suffered from medical conditions and now have higher COVID rates than the rest of this country— do in part because of the poverty and their lack of access to healthcare. And what we said would happen came true, farmworkers were at higher risks of getting sick and are dying at higher rates than other sectors in this country.”

Gonzalo asked Fried and Levine Cava what state and local governments are doing to address inequality in vaccine distribution for minority groups. Fried responded that she’s working with the White House to ensure more equal distribution of the vaccine.

“I will continue to hammer this issue,” Fried said. “We know that as of a few weeks ago, the inequality of the vaccines was so blatant that you saw almost a 4 to 1 ratio of white part of our population being vaccinated compared to the rest of our state.”

Community leaders have expressed concern that farmworkers need to get vaccinated before they leave SouthWest Florida and begin their journeys through the rest of the state, heading towards Georgia and the Midwest to follow the crop cycle.