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Vaccinating vulnerable communities in Kern County, African-Americans and farmworkers impacted more

Mass vaccination sites don't work for farmworkers
Posted: 4:58 PM, Mar 22, 2021
Updated: 2021-03-30 19:15:50-04
Vaccinating Farmworkers

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Health officials across the nation have long-said the key to reopening is getting more people vaccinated against COVID-19. New numbers from the CDC show that roughly 25 percent of Americans have gotten the vaccine.

Much of the nation is operating on a tiered vaccination plan giving people with the greatest need vaccinations first. This means the majority of the estimated 83 million people who've been vaccinated are health care workers, those with underlying conditions, and people over the age of 65.

But the need for vaccines extends far beyond factors of age and profession.

Data shows that African-Americans and Latinos are dying and getting infected at higher rates than other races making them some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

So what do the efforts to get the most vulnerable communities vaccinated look like in Kern County?

Vaccination PSA

The Kern County Public Health Department has been focusing on outreach efforts and PSA's to inform those vulnerable populations while other organizations have been hosting their own pop-up vaccine clinics.

"We know our African-American population is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. There are more of them dying due to COVID-19 than others throughout the state," said Kern County Public Health spokesperson Michelle Corson.

Vaccination Disparity

And according to the CDC, California is one of the worst states in getting vulnerable populations vaccinated, ranking 44th out of the 48 states surveyed.

In Kern County, less than 3 percent of the COVID-19 vaccine has been distributed to African-Americans prompting the Kern County Public Health Department to roll out billboards and a recent PSA hoping to encourage that demographic to get vaccinated.

"The other really important thing that we are doing right now is we have our canvassing team, it's our 'You Matter' public health canvassing team," explained Corson.

That team goes door-to-door in vulnerable communities to dispel any myths about the vaccine.

And for some of those communities, it's not so much of dispelling myths as it is vaccine availability and access. According to United Farm Workers Foundation spokeswoman Leydy Rangel: "There are estimates that there are upwards of 150,000 farmworkers on the regular in Kern County."

Pop-up Vacciniation Clinic

Of that group, Rangel says a UFW survey showed 73 percent of them wanted to get the vaccine but only 2,000 of them have been vaccinated so far through pop-up clinics hosted by UFW and various organizations that began on March 13th at the 40-acres property west of Delano.

According to Rangel, the clinics tear down a barrier of entry for farmworkers to get vaccinated by having a flexible schedule.

"We are doing these events on the weekends because that's the time that works for farmworkers. On Saturdays, we are there until 7 or 8 p.m. because we know that that's the time that farmworkers are available to come on by," explained Rangel. "Mass vaccination sites don't work for farmworkers, that's what we learned, getting an appointment in the middle of a Wednesday at 12 noon. That doesn't work for farmworkers. They're not going to show up because that means losing a day of work."

Rangel says these types of pop-clinics are going to continue every weekend in Delano, Shafter, Taft, Arvin. If you know a farmworker who wants to get vaccinated you can call (661) 501-4280 to make an appointment with UFW.

Jose Ramirez

Meanwhile, on Monday world record-breaking boxer Jose Ramirez partnered with the Wonderful Company to raise awareness about vaccines and why it's important for farmworkers to get vaccinated.

"We are so close to getting things back to normal. I know COVID-19 has affected us mentally, as well as physically and emotionally in many different ways," said Ramirez. "It's hurt a lot of people. So let's work together as a team to support those we love and the businesses we love, the communities we love by taking this vaccine."

Ramirez says his ties to the area and to agricultural workers are what is driving him to make sure those people get vaccinated.

And to bring that into even more focus, in Kern County coronavirus-related deaths are on the rise once again. Public health reported 19 new COVID-19 deaths on Monday. That brings the total for the county to over 1,000 lives lost to the virus.

Fortunately, when it comes to new infections the county is seeing a sharp drop. Public health reported just 43 new infections. That marks slightly more than 105,000 for the county.