MENDOTA, Calif. (KGPE) – The first group of Fresno County agriculture workers received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Mendota on Monday, a group that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic.
“Farmworkers are among our most vulnerable populations because they work in close proximity to each other, they go home, often to multigenerational households,” Fresno County Supervisor Brian Pacheco said.
Fresno County Department of Public Health set aside 3,000 doses to vaccinate ag workers – using three different models of distribution. The goal is to see which model is the most efficient.
“The agricultural workforce has really borne the brunt of a lot of the sacrifices with COVID-19, both medically, both in terms of the economic downturns and some of the other changes that have had to happen,” Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said.
The model on Monday allowed for the Fresno County Department of Public Health to visit a workplace and vaccinate 50 Pappas Family farmworkers.
Luis Cruz was one of them. He said he was happy to be among the first in the ag workforce to receive the vaccine.
“I feel like I’m protecting myself and those who surround me,” Cruz said.
Latinos have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in California. According to the most recent COVID-19 race and ethnicity data, Latinos make up 38.9% of the state’s population but account for 54.9% of COVID-19 cases and 46.1% of COVID-19-related deaths.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that farm workers remain a top priority when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We are keeping out farm workers, our agriculture workers in that top tier,” Newsom said.
But county supervisors and health officials sent the state a message loud and clear on Monday: Fresno County is in desperate need of more vaccines.
The county has the capacity to administer up to 30,000 doses per week, but last week only received 8,000 doses. The lack of supply forced the county to have to close vaccine distribution sites temporarily until more vaccine becomes available.
“If there’s one message that I could give to the state is ‘please bring us more vaccine and please listen to us when we tell you the plans that we have in terms of how to get these vaccines delivered to our folks because I think we made really good plans and I just want to be able to have more vaccines here in Fresno County to be able to deliver them,'” Vohra said.