COVID-19

Push to vaccinate Latinx farmworkers picks up

Mitchell Hartman Apr 12, 2021
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Last year, as farm work picked up, COVID spread like wildfire in the crowded fruit-packing plants. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Push to vaccinate Latinx farmworkers picks up

Mitchell Hartman Apr 12, 2021
Heard on:
Last year, as farm work picked up, COVID spread like wildfire in the crowded fruit-packing plants. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Three times as many people hospitalized with COVID-19 are Latinx Americans compared to white Americans. The toll has been particularly high in rural areas and small towns where a lot of Latinx people work in agriculture.

As farm work, and therefore COVID risk, pick up through the spring and summer, getting vaccines into the arms of workers is a priority.

Huge fruit-packing warehouses crowd next to orchards across the Yakima Valley in Washington, staffed mostly by Latinx workers, including 49-year-old Angelina Lara.

“I pack and I sort apples. It’s all year-round,” Lara said.

Last year, COVID spread like wildfire in the crowded plants. At one point, Lara and other workers walked off the job demanding better pandemic safety.

Now, Lara’s taken safety into her own hands. “I have gotten vaccinated,” she said. “I had my second dosage a week ago, so now I feel safer.”

Essential agriculture workers became eligible last month, and Lara’s employer has informed workers where they can get vaccinated. Some local employers are providing even more encouragement.

“If someone receives their vaccine before May 15, we gave one additional vacation day,” said Bob Gerst, who is in charge of human resources at John I. Haas, a large hops producer.

The company has also shuttled dozens of employees to a local clinic on the clock. Gerst said the company feels a sense of responsibility to its mostly Latinx workers.

“Both Latino and Black Americans more than twice as likely to die of COVID at every age, and yet there is a fair amount of distrust of the vaccine in communities of color,” he said.

Lara hears plenty of that at the packing plant.

“The employees, a lot of them are not too happy with getting vaccinated,” Lara said. “Mostly it’s because of the rumors people spread about the vaccine — that it’s an experiment, or some people have died from it.”

Farmworker advocates are trying to counter misinformation, including on community radio. Radio Cadena, “The Voice of the Farmworker,” airs public service announcements and call-in shows about COVID and the benefits of vaccination.

Research coordinator Elizabeth Torres referenced a graphic novel that organizers hand out at community events and farmworker camps, which depicts scenes of folks who already got vaccinated dispelling false information.

Torres said local health care providers and employers now need to bring mobile vaccination to farms and packing plants.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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