AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Food and farm workers will be among the 49 million frontline workers next in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia.
Governor Ralph Northam announced this week that phase 1b is expected to begin by the end of January.
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation requested they get the vaccine sooner to avoid shortages of food in grocery stores.
“You got to have the farmers producing food, and you got to have the folks in the plants processing the food, so ultimately that food is there on the grocery store shelf when the consumer goes to buy it,” Bradley Dunsmore, President of the Augusta County Farm Bureau Federation said.
Access to health care has long been a challenge for rural Virginians.
“Farmers tend to be individually self-employed, so they are not able to get group coverage. Group coverage is a whole lot more than the individual coverage is sometimes,” Dunsmore said.
Moving forward Dunsmore hopes to see agriculture workers given more options for quality health insurance.
The Farm Bureau has advocated for a group plan led by an organization, where members could get group plan, even if they don’t work for the same business.
“Up to this point, we’ve had some success with that in some states across the United States. Virginia has not been one of those states. That would be a tremendous help to farmers and other self-employed people, if you let them group up under an organization, like Farm Bureau,” Dunsmore said.
As vaccine distribution becomes more widespread, Dunsmore said it is critical to get things open back up in the safest and quickest manner possible.
“We’ve got to try to get back to as close to normal as we possibly can, as quick as we can, so we can kind of return to an economic norm and get things back to the way they were before this pandemic started,” Dunsmore said.