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.