Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried calls on FL to expand vaccines for ‘essential employees,’ such as farmworkers

A clinical coordinator measures the exact dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before it is administered; Dec. 14, 2020. Credit: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post (pool)

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Wednesday urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow COVID-19 vaccines for all teachers, school staff, childcare workers and farmworkers, to safely keep schools open and help protect industry workers against the disease.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried. Credit: CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

In a letter to governor, Fried wrote: “It is imperative that Florida move now to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all teachers, school staff, and childcare workers – regardless of age – as well as critical infrastructure and essential workers including farmworkers. Our economy and our public health depend on this.”

Starting Wednesday, the governor allowed vaccinations for K-12 school employees 50 years older, among other groups, such as the elderly age 65 and older.

Fried said that’s a first step, but it’s not enough, given that President Joe Biden has already urged states to vaccinate all educators and school staff, as well as childcare workers, by the end of this month.

“Prioritizing those who work closest with our youngest Floridians is necessary to ensure schools can remain safely open and continue educating, feeding, and inspiring our children,” said Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat.

“Furthermore, it is past time for some of Florida’s most essential workers to now have vaccine access, including farmworkers and those in the agricultural and food production industries, as I have requested since December,” Fried wrote.

She noted that, according to studies, “farmworkers face one of the highest increased risks of death from COVID-19.”

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.