Letter to Gov. Kemp Re: Vaccines for Farmworkers

Vea la versión en español aquí

_________________________________________________________________

March 26, 2021

The Honorable Brian P. Kemp
Governor of Georgia
206 Washington Street
111 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334

RE:      Request for Information Regarding Georgia’s Plan to Provide its Farmworkers with Fair Access to the COVID-19 Vaccine

Dear Governor Kemp:

Now that you have expanded access to the COVID-19 vaccine to all Georgians 16 and older, we write to request information about the plans that your administration has developed to ensure that farmworkers in the State of Georgia have fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.  We believe there is no work more essential than keeping food on the plates of every Georgia home, and it is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our farmworkers that our supermarkets remained stocked despite the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now more than ever, Georgia needs to ensure that every farmworker keeping our state fed is protected, healthy, and vaccinated.

As you are aware, Agribusiness is Georgia’s leading industry.  This important part of Georgia’s economy relies heavily on farmworkers, most of whom are foreign born and/or guest workers from Mexico and other countries in Latin-America.  Regardless of where they come from, the color of their skin, or the language they speak, they live and work in Georgia and should be provided with equitable and fair access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

We represent agricultural workers in Georgia.  This population is usually isolated, both in terms location (i.e. living in remote rural areas), and in terms of the social isolation that comes with not speaking the predominant language and being the subject of exploitation and racial discrimination.

To provide this population fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine, states need to consider all the extra barriers that farmworkers face and address those barriers in their vaccine distribution plans.  Some questions that come to mind are the following:

  • Will Georgia provide informational materials in Spanish regarding vaccine information, including information about eligibility, how to schedule an appointment, and other information already provided to the general public?
  • Will Georgia provide vaccine distribution sites in rural areas accessible to farmworkers?
  • What assurances can the state offer that all farmworkers in Georgia have access to the vaccine?
  • Is Georgia already working with members of the farmworker community and/or their allies in developing their farmworker vaccination strategy?
  • Is your administration including the Georgia Farmworker Health Program’s migrant clinics in its farmworker vaccination strategy? Is it including Emory University’s Farmworker Family Health Program (Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing) in that strategy?
  • What type of documentation can farmworkers provide to show that they are Georgia residents for purposes of eligibility to the vaccine?

Our office has close contacts with the farmworker population and years of experience providing outreach and legal services to farmworkers in rural Georgia.  If you would like our input in developing a farmworker vaccination plan for Georgia, we would be honored to assist.  We hope this letter starts a conversation and we look forward to your response to this very important inquiry.  You can reach me via e-mail at smercado-spencer@glsp.org, or by calling our office at 404-463-1633.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Solimar Mercado-Spencer
Senior Staff Attorney
Georgia Legal Services Program
Farmworker Rights Division

CC: Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Department of Public Health
Attorney General Chris Carr, Office of the Georgia Attorney General

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