Santa Clara County farmworkers receive COVID-19 vaccines at pop-up site

MORGAN HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- Mario Francisco Martinez took a break from his job at Monterey Mushrooms in Morgan Hill, to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the on-location, pop-up vaccination site.

"I think it was very convenient. We come to work, and at the same time, we get the vaccination. So, it's easier for us," explains Martinez.

Beginning Sunday, Santa Clara County is expanding its list of those eligible for the vaccine to include teachers and farm workers.

Advocates says it's critical to vaccinate farmer workers since they have been so hard hit during the pandemic.

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"There was a 59% increase in death during the pandemic of these workers. So we know that farm workers are at very high risk of death," says Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the United Farm Workers Foundation.

Monterey Mushrooms is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It has 400 employees at the Morgan Hill location, totaling 4,000 employees nationwide.

CEO, Shah Kazemi, says having a pop-up site helps the county maximize its effort to reach as many people as possible. He adds, it also provides a safe place for those hesitant about getting vaccinated.

"(You can) explain the process. You can have a much more robust vaccination program. By the time we get done, we will vaccinate a 1,000 farm workers," says Kazemi.

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"Some of the biggest outbreaks that we've had, across the country, have been in canneries or in fields," says Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

Chavez says, from berries to onions to bell peppers, agriculture is a multi-billion industry in Santa Clara County, and is an important part of the food chain, not just for the Bay Area, but for the entire U.S.

According to Chavez, vaccinating farm workers keeps the industry strong.

"There are two issues that we need to remember. One, is making sure that people get the healthy food they need. And the other, is that it's an important part of our economic recovery as well," says Chavez.


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