Now that pharmaceutical companies are shipping the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, the tree fruit industry is trying to secure an early place in line for its workers.
Several tree fruit organizations and employers joined a long list of broader agricultural groups and unions in asking the federal government to put farming personnel high on the priority list for those who will receive the first doses of the vaccine to protect against the coronavirus.
In mid-December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved one vaccine with another applicant on the way, but the developers will only be able to produce enough for a sliver of the U.S. population within the first few months of the year. The federal government has decided to dole out the doses to states based on population, and let the states decide how to distribute them from there. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended first vaccinating frontline medical workers and nursing home residents and staff.
In September, 167 farm groups and companies sent a letter to the White House asking for several remedies for coping with the coronavirus, such as allowing more housing options and providing funding for personal protective equipment. The letter also asked that “the food and fiber supply chain” be given priority for a vaccine when it becomes available. The Washington State Tree Fruit Association, the California Apple Commission, the New York Apple Association and the Michigan Apple Committee were among the groups that signed.
Separately, the tree fruit association also asked the Washington State Department of Health to put farmworkers high on its state priority list, said Jon DeVaney, president of the association.
The United Farm Workers union has also publicly pleaded for agricultural laborers to be high on the list, and the union is a member of an advisory committee drafting plans for vaccine distribution in California.