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Polk County nonprofit push to get migrant farm workers access to COVID-19 vaccine

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Posted at 4:12 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 17:43:23-05

MULBERRY, Fla. — The COVID-19 vaccine is now being offered to police officers and firefighters ages 50 and over and all Florida teachers. Advocates say migrant farm workers should be added to the list of essential workers eligible for the vaccine.

“If they were not able to go to work, fruits and vegetables that we enjoy would not be there, because these are the people that pick the crop,” said Lourdes Villanueva, Director of Farm Worker Advocacy for Redlands Christian Migrant Association.

Lourdes Villanueva is the Director of Farm Worker Advocacy for Redlands Christian Migrant Association in Mulberry. She said this population is vulnerable to contracting the virus because of their working conditions, lack of health care and many large families often live in mobile homes.

“Most families have to pair up, 2-3 families in one trailer in order to afford the rent. Very few employers provide housing, back in the day housing was provided," Villanueva said.

Villanueva tells ABC Action News, farmworkers who are 65 or older want the vaccine but lack access.

“Making that appointment, and making sure they get there and language, transportation, location. I mean everything is a barrier on top of barriers,” said Villanueva.

She said RCMA has locations in several Tampa Bay area counties and is looking to partner with local organizations to make vaccinations accessible for migrant workers who want it.

“Their kids go to school with everybody else. They go to the store with everybody else. So, I think it’s in our own best interest to make sure they are not forgotten and they do get the vaccine as soon as possible,” Villanueva said.