Statement from Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
As state and local public health entities accelerate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage advocates and officials to do their part to ensure Michigan's farmworker and immigrant communities are informed and provided needed access to the vaccine.
  • Food and Agricultural Workers: Farmworkers cannot wait until the spring to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. MIRC represents hundreds of food and agricultural workers across the state and this group is currently not scheduled to receive vaccines until May. CDC evidence, however, shows that these frontline essential workers should be prioritized due to greater occupational risk of exposure and to address disproportionate burdens and health inequities. Many Michigan food and agricultural workers work year-around, including in dairy, egg production, and nursery work, and continue to risk exposure to the coronavirus every day. These workers have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, risking their health and lives while providing essential services to our state. We have seen many lives lost, leaving families bereft during an already precarious time. It is only just and fair that food and agricultural workers are prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine. We call on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to issue a clear timeline and commitment to ensure Michigan’s agricultural workforce receives the priority it deserves and needs. 
  • Additionally, working with trusted local community health centers will be key to ensuring Michigan’s agricultural community voluntarily accepts and understands the efficacy of the vaccine and vaccination process. Culturally and linguistically appropriate information must be provided and farmworkers must be given space to voice their concerns regarding the vaccine. There are 49,135 migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Michigan, employed in field agriculture, nursery/greenhouse work, reforestation, and food processing. Agriculture is Michigan's second largest industry.
  • Essential Frontline Workers: Healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff were among the first to receive access to vaccines. Beginning January 11th, additional frontline workers whose role involves frequent or intense exposure and are not able to maintain social distance will be eligible for the vaccine. This includes police officers, first responders, jail and prison staff, teachers and childcare providers. Additional essential workers will become eligible in May. This later group of essential workers will include food and agriculture workers, critical manufacturing workers, public transit workers, grocery store workers, and U.S. Postal Service workers. Approximately 55,400 essential workers in Michigan are undocumented and may have fears or concerns about accessing the vaccine.
  • Older Adults: Beginning Monday January 11 Michiganders age 65 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. According to the Migrant Policy Institute, there are about 7,000 undocumented immigrants age 55 and over in Michigan. Some older adults live alone or have limited access to information about vaccine distribution. We encourage service providers to use culturally and linguistically appropriate methods of reaching elderly immigrants. 
  • Detained Immigrants: MIRC, along with our partners at ACLU of Michigan, continue to advocate for the release of our clients in detention, many of whom have medical conditions that predispose them to severe complications of COVID-19. If release is not possible, we urge prioritized access to vaccines as detainees meet eligibility by age or medical condition, in accordance with federal task force recommendations of prioritizing detainees for immunization.
  • Outreach and Language Access: We encourage service providers and state officials to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to reach vulnerable populations through outreach and education. State and local public health departments and community-based organizations serving immigrant communities can help by sharing information about the vaccine and vaccine distribution plans in multiple languages and through existing trusted community relationships.

Michigan is making tremendous progress in its vaccine implementation plan, but we have more work to do to protect the thousands of vulnerable immigrants that are elderly, essential frontline workers, and those who are detained with underlying medical conditions.

Media requests can be sent to:
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center |