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California targets potential farm workers for vaccinations

SAN FRANCISCO (AP). The fight to end the coronavirus spread to the Mexican border, where migrant farmers who go north to gather a thousand, broccoli, carrots and other crops are vaccinated as soon as they enter the United States. ,

California is vaccinating farmers on a large scale, taking staff where they live and working to protect people disproportionately severely affected by the epidemic. Advocates say the initial slow spread in California has gained momentum in recent weeks as vaccine flows increase, with mobile clinics appearing on farms and food processing centers.

Farmers are especially vulnerable because they live in crowded houses and eat together in dining rooms. Those who suffer outside often go to the fields together in crowded vans or buses. Others work in lively packaging warehouses.

At a recent event at the United Farmers’ Old Headquarters in Delano, a festival-like atmosphere featuring DJs և Free food brought about 1,000 people out of the Central Valley.

At the Calexico border, where only necessary workers have been allowed to cross since March last year, volunteers with Salud Sin Fronteras, Health’s Health Without Borders, vaccinate arriving workers.

Further north, Ernestina Solorio, 50, who was picking strawberries for each crop in the Watsonville fields, was first at the vaccination site at the back of the house. The single mother of four said she lived in fear of becoming infected and spent weeks calling clinics for vaccines.

“I was constantly thinking about what would happen to my children if I got sick. Who will prepare for them? Who will help them? ” he said.

Researchers at Purdue University estimate that about 9,000 agricultural workers in the United States have died from COVID-19, and nearly half a million people have been infected.

California was the first state to grant agricultural workers the right to be vaccinated, followed by others, including Washington, Michigan and Georgia. Arizona did not prioritize farms, but some private producers offered vaccinations. In Florida, the nation’s main supplier of citrus, agricultural lawyers tried in vain to eliminate the requirement of residency, to make agricultural workers necessary.

California is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables, and its growers rely on up to 800,000 agricultural jobs. Some come under the H2A visa program, which allows employers to legally hire them, but many are illegal in the country.

It is unclear how many farmer workers have been vaccinated to date, as California does not collect recipient employment data. The California Department of Health says it has about 20 mobile vaccine sites in rural areas, about three-quarters of which are near the fertile fields of the Central Valley.

“There’s a lot of optimism out there և hope because farmers think it’s a priority for them; this (one-dose Johnson & Johnson) vaccine gives them a lot of flexibility,” said Diana Telefson Torres, executive director of the United Farm Workers’ Foundation. անդամ Member of the State Vaccine Advisory Committee.

About 15,000 rural workers have been shot in Riverside since January, when it became the first state to expand its jurisdiction. County spokesman Brooke Federico said district officials plan to continue sending mobile units to farms as another wave of migrant workers arrives to collect asparagus, avocado and citrus crops.

Migrant workers typically harvest American winter produce in the Southern California Desert before moving north to Central Valley, Northern California, to harvest summer crops. Some farmer workers have been reluctant to be vaccinated because the work may prevent them from making a second appointment, lawyers say.

“We try to make sure they know that if they go elsewhere, it is not for us to go after them, but for them to go to the clinic to look for a second dose, which is an honor,” said Luis Olmedo of Comite Civico. CEO Del Valle, NGO in Calexico.

Immigrants without legal documents are wary of enrolling in government programs or collecting public immunization sites that require online registration. Many do not have access or do not know how to use the Internet, said Hernan Hernandez, executive director of the California Agricultural Nonprofit Foundation.

“You need a trusted community-based organization, because there will be mistrust. Many people are not going to feel very good about exchanging information with the government,” he said.

Advocacy groups are also trying to overcome the misinformation of vaccines by refuting claims that it changes male hormones or may be worse than the disease. After the lawyers’ talks, the volunteers help to register the vaccines.

Nationwide, a survey of more than 10,000 farm workers by the United Farmers Workers’ Fund found that 73% said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible, with only 5% saying no. Overall, about the same percentage of Americans said they would or would not get the vaccine, according to the Pew Research Center, and 30% said they would not be vaccinated.

Rafael Cervantes, 54, a mechanic at Black Dog Farms in Holtville, received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine on March 5 after being admitted to the clinic.

The father of three knew about his ex-partners who died after being infected, and family members became ill, including his two daughters, his sister-in-law, who still needs oxygen, and a nurse next to him.

He said he understood why officials decided to vaccinate people over the age of 65 because they were short of breath.

“The important thing is that we now have vaccines,” he said. “I wanted to get it because I wanted to continue to provide for my family, because I did not want to get sick. I like this life. ”

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