Hundreds of immigrants lined up to become some of the first US farmworkers to receive COVID-19 vaccination shots during a launch event last week in Riverside County, California.
The workers took time off from picking produce at Tudor Ranch in the farming community of Mecca, California.
“We’re going to be vaccinating 300 of them,” said Kimberly Saruwatar, Public Health Director for the county. “We know that this is an essential workforce. We know that they are critical to the food supply chain across the country, so we wanna make sure that they’re protected.”
The farmworker vaccination effort comes as California officials struggle to meet the challenge of vaccinating all those awaiting the shot, including millions of people 65 and older who recently were made eligible behind healthcare workers and people in nursing care homes.
California is getting 400,000 to 500,000 doses in a good week and it could take four to five months just to complete vaccinations for those 65 and older, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said in a statement during a vaccine advisory committee meeting, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Large counties have been opening up more mass vaccination sites as they struggle with an unprecedented demand. Officials are pinning hopes on President Joe Biden’s promise to ramp up vaccination resources.
Los Angeles County, with a quarter of the state’s population, was straightening out problems with online and call-in systems that residents over 65 can use to make a vaccination reservation, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health.
But the real problem was supply. Ferrer said more than 70% of doses received for this week are already earmarked for second shots.
Meanwhile, California reported its second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths — while the rates of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations continue to drop.
The state Department of Public Health says the total of 737 new deaths Thursday is second to the record 764 reported January 22nd.
California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to nearly 39,000, while total cases topped 3.1 million. The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has slipped more than 20% in two weeks. The positivity rate for people being tested has been falling for weeks, which means fewer people will end up in hospitals.