California has begun vaccinating farm workers, most of them Latin American immigrants, whose work is considered essential to America’s food supply.
Hundreds of employees at a Riverside County ranch have waited their turn to receive the first dose. They are not elderly or sanitary, but they are being vaccinated because their work is considered essential. In other words, they are the workforce that feeds America.
“We are going to vaccinate 300 people explains Kimberly Saruwatar, Riverside County Public Health Director. These are essential workers, critical to the supply of food to the entire country. We want to make sure they are protected“.
Dismantling false beliefs: “Our people hear about a chip in the vaccine”
The most difficult thing has been to convince them, scared as they were by the false news conveyed by social networks.
“We knew it would be very difficult to vaccinate our community, because they continue to hear myths -explains Luz Gallegos, director of TODEC, an advocacy group for the sector. We started 3 months ago with community education, going to the fields, talking to the workers, informing them about the vaccine. Dismantling myths, because our people keep hearing things about a chip that the Trump administration would have put in the vaccine to find out where they are and deport them“.
COVID-19 takes its toll on the Latino community
US President Joe Biden has warned that the United States will exceed half a million deaths from the pandemic in February. California already has almost 35,000 deaths, with the Latino community as one of the worst hit.
“We are also providing financial assistance. This morning a family called to thank us for 2000 dollars that we gave them for their father and brother, but now they will use that money to bury them -says Luz Gallegos, very excited-. This is something that is happening in our community and it is impacting not only the worker but the families and the rest of us because our hearts are broken. “
“It’s nice that someone cares about us”
Once misgivings have been overcome, some now perceive the fact of having been vaccinated as a way of acknowledging their worth and the importance of their work. Esequl Hernández feels that way.
“Sometimes you think that nobody cares about you, but now we see that someone cares about us farmers. And it’s nice”.