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Resettlement Officials: Refugees Should Be Among The First To Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Refugee resettlement officials in Bowling Green believe the international community should be among the first to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available. 

Executive director of the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, Albert Mbanfu, said the refugee community is at high risk because of their living arrangements and because many are essential workers. Most refugees that the International Center has helped place in jobs were working in processing plants where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred. 

Kentucky’s 2nd District Congressman wants any COVID-19 vaccine to be immediately available to vulnerable populations, including refugees. 

“Ultimately, it will be a vaccine that offers us the best chance to finally end this pandemic, allowing our nation to fully reopen,” Congressman Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green said during a recent hearing

Guthrie is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. He’s helping oversee the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

His Bowling Green district director, Mark Lord, said during a quarterly international community meeting last week that Guthrie wants the vaccine to be available to populations that are more susceptible to the virus. 

Lord said Guthrie recognizes there are challenges for people who have to commute together and live together in close proximity. 

“That inherently leads to more vulnerable population regardless of the health conditions of those residents and commuters,” Lord said. 

Mbanfu said new requirements are in place for refugees arriving in the area. 

“Any refugee that arrived in the United States in August, they had to stay in their homes for two weeks before they go about their business. We serve them where they are,” Mbanfu said. 

WKU Public Radio previously reported that the international center placed 162 refugees during the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Mbanfu said that all refugees are also encouraged to get tested for coronavirus when they arrive. 

Any COVID-19 vaccine has to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Guthrie said during a hearing that after the vaccine is approved, there will need to be widespread acceptance, distribution, and immunization to help fight the virus.

Former student intern Alana Watson rejoined WKU Public Radio in August 2020 as the Ohio Valley ReSource economics reporter. She transitioned to the station's All Things Considered Host in July of 2020 and became the student reporting and producing specialist in 2023. Watson has a B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism for Western Kentucky University and a M.A in Communications from Austin Peay State University. She is a Nashville native and has interned at WPLN-FM in Nashville. Watson was also a 2nd Century Fellow for Wisconsin Public Radio before rejoining WKU Public Radio. She has received numerous awards for her reporting.
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