Across the West, COVID-19 vaccination is underway for farmworkers.
Health departments are vaccinating farmworkers through mobile clinics and organized events.
In a recent United Farm Workers Foundation survey of 10,149 farmworkers, 73% said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible, 22% said they were neutral and 5% said they would not get vaccinated.
To encourage vaccination, some employers, including California-based Bolthouse Farms, are offering workers cash bonuses.
As of March 29, all migrant and seasonal farmworkers were eligible to be scheduled for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Rudy Owens, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority, said vaccination planning for vulnerable populations — including farmworkers — has been underway for months. The agency launched a pilot project with the Governor’s Office in early March, working with federally qualified health centers to administer vaccines.
“The goal was to expand vaccination efforts to help serve those experiencing the worst impacts of COVID-19,” Owens said.
One such event was held March 24-27 with Morrow County Public Health at the Sage Center in Boardman, Ore. Multilingual staff and volunteers were able to vaccinate 1,066 people during the four-day event, held in the center parking lot.
Owens said OHA is also partnering with other community-based organizations, farmworker unions such as Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, and advertising on Spanish-language radio stations to reach farmworkers in rural parts of the state.
“This community is often mobile and based in rural communities, making access to services difficult,” Owens said. “Many farmworkers speak Spanish or meso-American Indigenous languages, so we have worked to ensure information is culturally and linguistically appropriate.
“We also understand that some workers are concerned about whether vaccinations will impact their immigration status or public charge,” Owens added, “so we try to work through our trusted community partners.”
In Washington, farmworker vaccination kicked off March 17.
Washington does not track vaccinations by occupation, so officials say they don’t have data on how many farmworkers have been vaccinated so far.
Katie Pope, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, said the state is reaching farmworkers through “mass vaccination sites, mobile clinics, employer-based clinics, pharmacies and health care providers.”
During the pandemic, Pope said, the state has contracted with Medical Teams International and other groups to deliver testing to agricultural worksites, and Pope said “we are exploring a similar program for vaccinations.”
Employers can find out how to get workers vaccinated by calling 1-800-525-0127.
California farmworkers became eligible for vaccination Feb. 13.
Sami Gallegos, spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health, said the state is primarily using mobile clinics “to reach farmworkers where they work and live.”
The state, she said, is partnering with farmworker advocacy groups, counties, community and faith-based organizations and employers.
Like Washington, California does not track vaccinations by occupation and therefore isn’t tracking how quickly farmworkers are getting vaccinated.
Employers should contact their local health jurisdiction to request a mobile clinic.
The vaccine rollout in Idaho is a bit different, given the makeup of the state’s Department of Health and Welfare.
Idaho public health is divided into seven autonomous districts that are each responsible for managing vaccinations in their own areas. Districts are based in Hayden, Lewiston, Caldwell, Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls.
Niki Forbing-Orr, spokeswoman for IDHW, said vaccinations are available for frontline essential workers, including food and agriculture workers. Anyone 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine beginning April 5.
Christine Myron, spokeswoman for the agency’s Central District — which covers Boise, Ada, Elmore and Valley counties — said they are working with enrolled vaccine providers to reach farmworkers, such as the Desert Sage Health Center in Mountain Home.
”They are scheduling on-site clinics and doing so at hours of the day that are accommodating of shift work and schedules,” Myron said.
Myron said the district is not offering mass vaccination events but continues to take a decentralized approach to reaching farmworkers directly in their communities.
The district’s vaccine task force meets each Thursday to discuss how they will allocate vaccines for the upcoming week, she said.
“We take the needs of our providers into consideration as we determine how best to allocate specific vaccine types and volumes to which providers,” Myron said.