Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has granted agricultural employers “flexibility” to vaccinate all of their workers at once against COVID-19, regardless of age, even though older workers are technically first in line.
The state has begun vaccinating residents under Phase 1B of its published vaccine priority plan. Under that schedule, farmworkers 50 and older who work in congregate settings fall under Phase 1B Tier 2 while their younger co-workers are in Tier 4, which could put them weeks or months behind.
Earlier in January, several agricultural employer groups, including the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, or WSTFA, asked Inslee in a letter to reconsider the schedule to make sure more farmworkers were vaccinated ahead of the farming season.
Though Inslee declined to revise the schedule, he did promise to allow certain employers “flexibility” to set up on-site vaccination clinics for multiple age groups at once, said Jon DeVaney, president of WSTFA. That would prevent the need for health professionals to make more than one trip to sometimes remote, rural locations carrying vaccines that require extremely cold temperatures.
“No farm wants to do multiple vaccination events,” DeVaney said.
The state will grant such flexibility on Tier 2 once it has reached about 50 percent of the eligible population that falls under Tier 1 of Phase 1B, which includes people over 65 and those living in multigenerational households, said Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Inslee’s office.
—by Ross Courtney