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Mobile COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Gears Up for Influx of NC Migrant Workers


Tuesday, May 10, 2022   

An all-volunteer vaccine clinic run by a farmworkers' union says it's expecting an increase in demand from seasonal migrant workers who want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), Baldemar Velasquez said the mobile clinic has provided shots to thousands in North Carolina's low-income immigrant community.

But he pointed out that migrant workers can be especially vulnerable because they travel, live and work in crowded conditions.

"And now," said Velasquez, "we'll convert over to reaching the migrant population when they start coming in for the planting and cultivating and then finally, the harvesting. And that's when we'll get the mobile clinic out to a couple of the big farms."

According to the Environmental Working Group, North Carolina counties with the highest concentrations of farmworkers also have the highest rates of documented COVID-19 cases.

And Purdue University research shows as of last December, more than one million agricultural workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Velasquez said he's worried about emerging subvariants and how they might impact nationwide vaccine supplies. He added that clinic volunteers already faced an uphill battle getting the vaccine.

"I know from past experiences that when there's initiatives like that," said Velasquez, "not only in the health departments, but in other federal and state agencies - the migrant workers and the immigrant population are the last ones in line. They're the last ones to be reached."

At the University of Toledo College of Medicine, Clinical Professor of Medicine Dr. Richard Paat heads mobile vaccination clinic efforts. He said his staff, primarily medical students, travels to church and work sites in order to reach people who would otherwise have limited access to vaccines.

"By going there to the sites, we became accessible to the population that did not have access to transportation," said Paat. "And again, working with known leaders like Baldemar and Father Molina, there was an instant acceptance of our teams."

Research shows a high percentage of Hispanic or Latino individuals are willing to be vaccinated, and optimistic about the vaccine's ability to prevent illness, especially among young adults.

Disclosure: Farm Labor Organizing Committee contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families, Rural/Farming, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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