Severely affected by pandemic, California farm workers remain least vaccinated group: study

Ritu Jha-

Ten months after people were first vaccinated in the United States, farm workers are the group with the lowest vaccination rates.

Edward Flores, assistant professor of sociology and co-director of a UC Merced center on work and community, said the study he led suggests more investment is needed to increase immunization rates and reduce disease. spread of COVID. He was speaking at a virtual ethnic media event on October 20, titled “Kern County farm workers, food processors still at risk – Pandemic reaches turning point.”
Flores said the Central Valley is a hotspot for the spread of COVID in 2020, and California farm workers are at a much higher risk of pandemic-related deaths than other workers.

Kern County has a large number of agricultural workers, many of whom are Sikhs of Indian descent.
The Central Valley recorded one of the highest increases in deaths in the state in 2019 and 2020. Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley accounted for more than two-thirds of the 45,500 deaths linked to the pandemic of the ‘State.

Born in Central Valley, California, Naindeep Singh, co-founder and executive director of the Jakara Movement, a community-based nonprofit organization working to empower, educate and organize Punjabi Sikhs and others marginalized communities, discussed the impact for Punjabi workers in food processing companies in Kern County.

When indica New Asked Singh why many farm workers weren’t getting vaccinated, he said, “It’s complicated. People have different reasons for getting the vaccine and not getting the vaccine, so it’s hard to share a single story as the reason they aren’t vaccinated. It can depend on education, class, profession, personal beliefs and many other factors.
During the briefing, Singh said that farm workers and food processing plant workers are of all ages and genders, but added that “many elders and seniors who work in these conditions are often linguistically isolated. . Some shared that they had not yet been vaccinated.

Singh also said that farm owners have not always made the vaccination option available to farm workers due to politics, their preferences or their own feelings about it. Another reason could be that owners of small farms and businesses may not have acted quickly on vaccinations like some large businesses did.

When asked how Jakara’s movement is tackling the issue, Singh said, “We have reached out directly to some employers who shared that their workers need to understand. [the process of getting vaccinations] by them selves.”

Juana Montoya, an outreach worker at Lideres Campesinas in Kern County, said indica New that in the town of Arvin and the neighboring town of Bakersfield, the majority of farm workers and some business owners are of Sikh origin. They were waiting to see how their vaccinated neighbors fared before considering the option.

“They are just very worried that this vaccine will react [badly with their systems]”Montoya said.” A lot of them say they don’t want to die. Some fear there’s a chip that could follow them or something. Besides the doubts and conspiracy theories, she underlined another area of ​​concern: many of these workers are undocumented.
During a call, Montoya said he also raised many questions during a vaccination clinic held on October 24.

“They wonder how the vaccine got to the market so quickly, even though it is taking time,” she said. “They ask if this will create complications at birth. There is a lot of misinformation so they are always afraid of getting the vaccine. “

During the briefing, Singh was optimistic about how many children of Punjabi workers would be vaccinated.

With more vaccines available and more effort, especially at the school level, people worry less about getting their children vaccinated. He said misinformation about the vaccine had focused less on children than on the elderly, the question being whether it would sterilize people or cause birth defects.

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