Life for California’s farmers is getting difficult as the pandemic keeps growing with no vaccine supply.
Fransico Naranjo is a 40-year-old farmer in Watsonville city (Santa Cruz County) who recently became a disability patient while being in quarantine when one of his crew members was infected with the coronavirus.
Vaccine Supply For California Farmers Becomes Critical
Even though Naranjo wishes to get back to work, the lack of vaccines makes it seem difficult.
He stated through a translator that he is concerned about the vaccine’s side effects but wouldn’t hesitate to take it if it would grant him the immunity to work safely.
Naranjo also said that no health organizations or officials haven’t contacted him yet, but he remains hopeful.
Most of the farmers in Watsonville are unvaccinated and the health workers are also unable to provide vaccines for Santa Cruz County.
Santa Cruz Farm Bureau’s Co-Chairman Thomas Am Rhein remarked on Naranjo’s condition that farmers who work through the tough winter season are important workers and providing them with sufficient vaccines will set a great example for the larger crew workers who will be coming within a few weeks.
Watsonville’s vaccination clinics helped over 486 agricultural workers which include poultry workers, harvesters, greenhouse workers, grain and fiber production workers. They also aim to vaccinate an additional 500 agricultural workers on Friday.
The second vaccine shots would require approximately 3 weeks inorder to be effective.
But the critical vaccine supply makes it difficult to plan the distribution process.
Health advocates state that since farmers are less during this time of year, and growers are in their initial season, it is crucial to arrange vaccination as soon as possible.
Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissioner Juan Hidalgo stated that the vaccination process should be made as anxiety-free as possible as people should be able to believe that they will be provided the doses regardless of any eligibility.
Hidalgo and his team estimate to provide maximum vaccines before the farmers’ peak season in June when there would be around 9000 active agricultural workers.
He also said that it is a challenge to contact the unemployed farmworkers at present as most of them are not registered. The Center for Farmworker Families estimated that around 83% of workers have unauthorized immigration status.
The Pajaro Valley is said to be another one of California’s covid hotspots.
Although vaccine appointments are currently available for Santa Cruz County’s agricultural workers, they are mostly scheduled through health worker’s websites or other online portals, which most farmers are unaware to use neither do they have access to the internet.
Apart from these, language barriers are another issue. Most of these agricultural workers speak their own indigenous languages and are not popularly used.