Recommendations for State Public Health Authorities
These basic recommendations were developed by a national advisory council comprised of non-profit organizations, legal services organizations, Migrant Education/Migrant Head Start, agricultural employers, agricultural workers, researchers, and other members. Farmworker advocates should use these recommendations as a basic starting point, and should adapt the recommendations based on the needs of their county or state.
- Place farmworkers and all household members 16 years of age or older in Phase 1 vaccination distribution efforts. Subgroups of farmworkers that have shown to be at an increased risk of infection (such as those working in packing sheds, processing houses, in shared housing, etc.) and their adult household members should be prioritized first if supply is very limited. All persons who have been employed in agriculture in the past two years should be considered a farmworker and should be included in Phase 1 distribution plans.
- Prioritize farmworkers for federal, state, and county public health efforts. Efforts should include rapid access to quarantine facilities and transportation to those facilities, free COVID-19 testing and health care services for any health effects of COVID-19, free vaccinations, and economic support for workers or family members who test positive or must quarantine or self-isolate due to exposure.
- State and local public health officials should develop vulnerable population advisory boards/task forces that include community members. State advisory boards should always include farmworkers or farmworker representatives, and regional advisory boards that serve rural counties should include them as well. These advisory boards can provide expertise to public health officials and facilitate efficient outreach, contact tracing, testing, and vaccine access. Advisory boards can also work to identify existing networks of agricultural employers and community-based organizations who can help facilitate access to the vaccine and provide education on the vaccine to farmworkers.
- State and county departments of health should provide transparent, public information about vaccine distribution. Information available to the public should include the sex, race/ethnicity, age groups, residence zip code, occupation, and preferred language of vaccine recipients in all counties. Such information will help identify demographic and socioeconomic disparities in vaccine distribution, and this information can be used by local health departments and federally-qualified health centers to plan special efforts to reach vulnerable and underserved communities.
- The state health department should have a statewide phone number and online reporting system so that people can report vaccine access issues, such as Title XI violations or being denied a vaccine due to their immigration status or inability to provide a social security number. The state health department should have protocols to screen these reports and refer to appropriate departments (such as the Attorney General) for further assessment and enforcement action, when appropriate.
- State and local public health officials should seek to actively collaborate with farmworker service providers and community-based organizations who interact with farmworker communities in order to prevent outbreaks or limit the extent of them, mitigate the impact of outbreaks on farmworker communities, and to increase trust of governmental agencies in farmworker communities.
- State and local public health officials must actively collaborate with state offices of monitor advocates, the Department of Labor, and agricultural industry associations & employers in order to ensure that H-2A guest workers understand where they can access health care in preventive and emergency situations, where they can access COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations and what the associated costs may be, how they can acquire health insurance coverage through healthcare.gov, and how to file labor or health and safety complaints.
- State and local public health officials should actively collaborate with federally-qualified health centers and with local and regional OSHA offices, as these groups can offer expertise in reaching agricultural worker populations and in managing occupational health and safety risk.
- Since farm work is highly seasonal and many farms had to lay off or furlough workers due to pandemic-related food surpluses, proof of eligibility requirements for the vaccine should be minimal and should consider both currently employed and unemployed farmworkers.
- Any documentation or personal information collected about vaccine recipients should be minimal, and no entity should collect information about immigration status or social security numbers. Government entities should communicate publicly about what documentation or personal information is being collected at the time of vaccination.