Central Valley leaders implore Gov. Newsom to prioritize the region with COVID-19 vaccine distribution


FRESNO, California (KGPE) — A Fresno city councilman is waiting to hear back from Gov. Gavin Newsom, after writing him a letter to prioritize the Central Valley when it is time to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

The call comes following a statewide coalition to make sure the vaccine is accessible to those hit the hardest by the virus.

COVID-19 hit councilman Luis Chavez’s district hard. In District 5 – which includes ZIP codes 93727, 93725, and 93702 – more than 4,700 cases were reported, according to data from the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

Chavez says his district is full of essential workers, like farmworkers and food processing employees. He is hoping they will be among the first to get the vaccine.

“They need to be prioritized because they literally feed not just the state, but the country,” Chavez said. “We are the breadbasket of the world and we have to keep that food supply chain going.”

He wrote and sent a letter to Gov. Newsom’s office Monday, asking for Fresno and the Central Valley to be prioritized in vaccine distribution planning.

In it, he mentioned how the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, “has consistently ranked Fresno and the Central Valley as one of the most vulnerable regions in the country.”

Claudia Corchado, program manager at Cultiva La Salud in Merced County, has been working with the STOP COVID-19 CA coalition. It is made up of several University of California schools, including UC Merced.

The coalition’s goal is to keep the most impacted communities informed about an eventual vaccine, as well as ensure vaccine trials are diverse.

She says the latest headlines about a vaccine have been welcoming, but she and her staff say it’s best to remain cautious.

“It’s too soon to know if there are any side effects to the vaccine at this point. It’s too soon to know if there are any short term effects,” Corchado said.

As Chavez awaits an answer from Gov. Newsom, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says essential workers like farmworkers will likely be at the front of the line.

“Some of those congregant work settings — where you’re working in close quarters, where it’s hard to keep your guard up all the time — they are certainly a higher priority,” Ghaly said.

Chavez says he’s received confirmation Gov. Newsom’s office received his letter.

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