ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – New York farm workers are now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Cuomo administration was criticized for not including them among other groups of essential workers who became eligible weeks ago.
The state and local health departments are coordinating pop-up clinics at farms to bring the vaccines directly to farm workers.
Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell farmworker program, says designated migrant health centers, such as Finger Lakes Community Health, will also be part of the effort.
“They already have trust among the farmworkers,” she said. “They have the language and cultural competency to give these vaccines, as well as refrigeration for transporting these vaccines.”
Dudley, who serves on the community health organization’s board, said they have more than 20 years’ experience in administering flu vaccines to farm workers on farms.
She said they’ve already held COVID-19 vaccination clinics for farm workers who were previously eligible by age or because of underlying medical conditions.
Advocates were urging state officials to declare farm workers eligible as a group since February.
That’s when President Joe Biden announced the availability of 11 million vaccine doses that were specifically designated for federally qualified health centers serving vulnerable communities, including farm workers and individuals with limited English proficiency.
Dudley said some farm workers are hesitant to get the vaccine because they are wary of interacting with the government.
“We saw some vaccination sites that were held, let’s say, at the New York State fairgrounds and there was the presence of National Guard,” she said. “That is not an environment in which farm workers would see a vaccine.”
Dudley encourages farm owners to register their employees for the vaccine, as farm workers may not have access to a computer. Farms can also request that a pop-up vaccine clinic be held at their location.
New York farms employ more than 55,000 people, according the USDA 2017 Census.