On Friday, Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) announced a pilot program proposal that would ensure that farmworkers would receive the coronavirus vaccine and would not be left behind.
According to the plan being touted by Senator Caballero and other legislators, delivery systems would be set up in cities and would be transported to small vaccination centers near worksites in rural areas. Their idea is to make tiny versions of vaccine centers currently running in places like Dodger Stadium and Disneyland, but scaled down to a size that can be served from places such as a community center or church parking lot. Pharmacies and mobile clinics would also be utilized for vaccine storage, transportation, and inoculating.
While many rural areas could be served this way, the program would focus on rural areas with a lack of pharmacies and medical centers. Administering vaccinations at places of work could also be achieved with mobile clinics, making it easier for medical personnel to ascertain their place of work. The pilot program does ask immigration status in exchange for vaccines, focusing more on proving that they work, rather than their citizenship.
“It’s really true that they don’t have a badge, most of them, and proving that they’re working in fields or working in food production may be difficult to do unless the vaccine is given at the place of unemployment,” Sen. Caballero said earlier this week. “I just want to make sure that we don’t forget that farmworkers need to be vaccinated, that every single county sets a priority for farmworkers to be vaccinated. And I thought the tiered system was so complicated that it was possible that different counties would treat farmworkers in different ways.”
Sen. Caballero drew up the pilot program in response to the current vaccine rollout’s tiered system unclear on where farmworkers are, also addressing farmworkers as essential workers, and to combat COVID-19’s high case and death rate among Hispanics in the state. Around 90% of all farmworkers in California are Hispanic.
“The numbers are tragic, and it makes me mad,” Sen. Caballero said. “Every time I see the numbers, I think about my family and I think about what it means for family members to lose somebody because there weren’t the resources to keep them safe. It’s personal for me, and it hurts.”
Appealing directly to Newsom, concerns over the pilot proposal
Senator Caballero appealed directly to Governor Gavin Newsom in the hopes for a better vaccine rollout for workers.
While her pilot program has not garnered significant opposition, some have questioned how it may effect the rollout at large.
“We need to ensure that everyone gets a fair shot at a shot,” nurse Ashley Strickland, who has been assisting vaccinations, told the Globe. “But it’s in phases for a reason. Healthcare workers, those in nursing homes, and those over 65 are most at risk. After that we can plan for others. I think a plan for rural areas is needed, especially for farmworkers, but we need to get the first phase done with first. That way we can evaluate how that went and adjust as needed.”
“No one will be left behind in, but before any huge plans that could take away time and resources from what we need now, we need to get the first phase done. It’s important, but we are under an urgent order to vaccinate those who need it now.”
Senator Caballero also warned that consistency would be needed, as counties seem to differ on rollout plans.
“I just want to make sure that we’re clear at the state level about what we’re telling the counties they can do because it’s been a little bit hard,” added the Senator. “Every county feels like they’ve been told something a little bit different and so that’s what makes it difficult because there’s no consistency in terms of how things are being done.”
As of Friday, Governor Newsom has yet to respond to the proposed pilot plan.