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Immigrant rights group concerned about COVID-19 vaccine access for farmworkers

Felipe Caparros Cruz
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Even though Michigan farm workers are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, they might be a long way from actually getting shots, an immigrant rights group said on Wednesday.

A continuing shortage of vaccine doses has led local health departments in farm-heavy parts of the state to say they’re still working through the highest-priority vaccination groups of health care workers and people older than 65.But there’s also the problem of reaching people in communities that are largely rural and sometimes don’t have legal status, said Diana Marin, supervising attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

Marin said community health centers, instead of government health departments, are often what works best for getting medical care to farmworkers.

Those health centers are often staffed by people with close connections -- linguistic and cultural, as well as geographic -- to the communities they serve, she said.

“The more the state is able to get those vaccines to these community health centers, the more access that farmworkers, both migrant and seasonal, will be able to have to the vaccine,” said Marin.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said it’s looking through applications from community health centers that requested vaccine doses to reach people -- like farm workers -- that are vulnerable to COVID-19.

The health department said it will announce next week where those vaccines will be headed.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.
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