Farmers and others involved with Minnesota’s food and agriculture sector are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The expanded vaccine eligibility began March 10 after Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement of a two-phase expansion that includes food processing plant workers (Phase 1b Tier 2) and other essential ag workers, including employees in food production and food retail (Phase 1b Tier 3).
Thom Petersen, Minnesota agriculture commissioner, noted that the governor’s announcement comes several weeks ahead of schedule after the state moved quickly to use more vaccine from the federal government.
“This is really good news,” Petersen said. “Food and agriculture workers have been essential throughout the pandemic keeping food on our tables, and I commend Gov. Walz for prioritizing food processing, food production, retail food employees and farmers in this next vaccination phase.” Petersen added that there are about 50,000 workers in ag and meat processing now eligible for vaccination.
Other Phase 1b Tier 2 populations besides food processing plant workers include Minnesotans with specific underlying health conditions such as sickle cell disease and Down syndrome; those in cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplants and oxygen-dependent chronic lung and heart conditions; and people with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness.
Farmers fall under the Phase 1b Tier 3 populations, along with Minnesotans age 45 and older with one or more underlying medical conditions identified by the CDC; Minnesotans age 16 and older with two or more underlying medical conditions; Minnesotans age 50 and older in multigenerational housing; and other essential front-line workers in food production, food retail and food service; as well as other sectors including airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, and U.S. Postal Service workers.
The state health department encourages all residents who have not received a vaccine to sign up for the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector to get regular updates on vaccine availability and eligibility.
Looking ahead into 2021, Petersen is optimistic about in-person farm meetings taking place.
“It’s looking good for farm shows, for cattle and horse shows,” Petersen said. “I think we’re heading toward in-person meetings.”