Pilot Program Vaccinating Ventura County Farmworkers In Advance Of Widespread Rollout

Feb 22, 2021

Leticia Tapia is getting her first COVID-19 vaccination.  Ventura County Public Health workers ask the Oxnard farmworker if she’s sick, or currently has the virus, and she says no.

She’s part of a pilot program by the county focused on vaccinating the county’s 40,000 farmworkers.  The process goes quickly.  Tapia says she wasn’t afraid, and was excited to get the shot because she knows it will help protect her and her family. 

More than 100 farmworkers are getting vaccinated at a mobile clinic taking place at Good Farms, in Oxnard.

Selfa Saucedo is Ventura County’s Director of Health Education.  But, right now, she’s acting as a traffic cop, steering a line of waiting farmworkers to vaccination booths set up under a series of tents on the farm.  She says these farmworkers her happy to get protected with shots, after learning about the benefits,

Getting farmworkers onboard with the vaccination process is requiring a lot of education.  Israel Vasquez is the county’s Farmworker’s Resources Coordinator.  He says there are language issues, and in some cases the workers can’t read, or write.  They’ve been doing a number of education efforts, including audio and video presentations in languages like Mixteco.

Farmworkers are part of the next phase of vaccinations, officially set to start in the next few weeks.  Ventura County Public Health Director Dr. Rigoberto Vargas says it also include educators, law enforcement officers, and food services workers.

The key to the rollout of expanded farmworker vaccinations, as well as the next stage of shots for others like educators continues to be the same central issue: vaccine supply.  Ventura County Public Health officials are expanding the places where people will be able to get shots.  It all comes back to how much vaccine the federal government is allotting to the state, and the state to the county. 

But, getting protection for farmworkers is high on the priority list.  Unlike many people, they don’t have the luxury of being able to do their work on Zoom.

David Murray is co-owner of Good Farms, which has multiple farms.  About 150 people work at this 80 acre site off of Rice Avenue in Oxnard.  He says though stringent safety efforts, the farm has been COVID-19 free.  But, he says the vaccinations are critical.  He notes that the workers have been on the job throughout the pandemic, bringing us the food we eat.

Watching these farmworkers get vaccinated is an important, yet emotional moment for Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez.  Her district includes the highest case number of the virus in the county.  She recently lost her brother to COVID-19.

Ramirez says there are still some who question the threat.  But, thanks to people stepping up with things like masks, and social distancing, the numbers are improving.  She’s hoping people can hang in there for a few more months, until vaccine is widely available, and we hit herd immunity.