The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is partnering with community organizations to launch a COVID-19 vaccine pilot program this weekend that will administer first doses to agricultural workers.
The county, and more specifically the Santa Maria area, has a huge population of farmworkers, so it didn't come as a surprise that vaccine appointments for this upcoming Sunday filled up quickly. Local organizations involved say outreach efforts were critical.
"We spent a few evenings calling and luckily we were able to sign up 105 out of the total of 500 that will be receiving vaccines on Sunday,” said CAUSE policy advocate Rebeca Garcia.
Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) is just one of the many local organizations that teamed up with the county public health department to launch the vaccine pilot program for hundreds of farmworkers all in an effort to make sure language or cultural barriers were not a factor in getting people to sign up.
Other groups like Mixteco Indigena Community Organization Project (MICOP), which specializes in helping the indigenous population, also played a big role.
"So we were able to make that personal connection and we were able to answer their questions maybe even if they were kind of on the fence of whether I should get the vaccine or not or maybe they didn't trust it,” said MICOP Santa Maria program director Ana Huynh.
The Hispanic population has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, especially farmworkers, which is why organizations say now more than ever it’s important to start vaccinating these essential workers.
"It's critical, critical because housing situations that our farmworkers currently have to live in, so there's the congregate housing, there are multiple families per housing unit living together,” Huynh said.
Although this is great news for many, Huynh adds the work doesn't stop there.
“There are so many questions that we need to keep in mind and definitely address after Sunday. The goal is, the hope is we can get as many farmworkers vaccinated as possible and so this pilot program will provide us very very crucial information to get as many people vaccinated as possible as quickly as possible,” she said.
The vaccine clinic will be happening at the Santa Maria Health Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday and according to health officials, there will be nine interpreters to help provide translation to those who need it.
Starting next week, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department will start vaccinating other individuals in Phase 1B such as teachers, childcare professionals, emergency services workers, and food/grocery workers.