Hundreds of farmworkers get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Fresno County

Several ag companies collaborated with Fresno County and a non-profit to secure 800 doses for frontline workers.
FRESNO, Calif. -- Hundreds of hard-to-come-by COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Thursday to farmworkers on the west side of Central California.

Several ag companies collaborated with Fresno County and the non-profit Valley Health Team to secure 800 doses for frontline workers.

On Thursday morning, they rolled up their sleeves to get their first shot at a drive-thru clinic in Firebaugh.

The line moved at a steady pace since 8:30 in the morning.

A few quick forms, and then the shot so many had been hoping for.

"It's just going to work every day and knowing you could catch it from someone, and with this vaccine, I'll be feeling a little safer now," said farmworker Martha Linares.

For so many farmworkers like Linares, getting the vaccine is providing protection and peace of mind as they continue to pick and pack our fruits and vegetables during the pandemic, often without access to important medical care.

"These are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and they probably don't know how to navigate going into Fresno, getting the vaccine, and trying to figure out where to go. And us coming here to them has been definitely a blessing," said Jeany Lopez with the Valley Health Team.

62-year old Ignacio Reyes said his fear of getting sick grew after hearing of so many people who died from the virus and when he was offered the vaccine he jumped at the chance.

As did the four cantaloupe growers who joined forces to secure the 800 vaccines that will be administered at the drive-through clinic this week.

"Getting vaccines in their arms is key, they are critical to our food supply," said farmer Garrett Patricio with the Westside Produce Company.

Patricio said having a local health clinic administer the shots was also key because many of his employees were grateful but also nervous about getting the shot.

"Being a local clinic that understands farmworkers, that can communicate with them because they speak English and Spanish, share with them, address any concerns they have - this is fantastic," Patricio said.

Marisol Bonilla said she was initially skeptical about side effects, but thought it was the best choice for her family and made the drive from Los Banos Thursday with her parents and a co-worker.

"I just wanted to get vaccinated for my parents' safety, they are a little older - and then we have a newborn baby in the house. I didn't want to get them infected and just to be on the safe side," she said.

Patricio said other farmers in the area have expressed interest in holding vaccination events as well.

He said he is happy to continue hosting for any farms that want to get their employees vaccinated.

All they hope now is for the state to provide the Valley with more doses.
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