Online Originals: Building trust with migrant farmers over COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Agricultural workers, including migrant farmers, will soon be getting the COVID-19 vaccine. But, they might resist efforts to get them.

Now, a group of Latino organizations is trying to lessen that opposition by rolling out bi-lingual education forums.  

COVID-19 infection rates are disproportionately high among Latinos. A CDC study shows 37% of workers in agricultural industries are Hispanic or Latino, but they’ve registered 73% of COVID cases.  

“As we know in North Carolina, the hardest community hit with COVID-19, has been minorities, especially in rural communities,” said Juvencio Rocha-Peralta, the executive director of the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, or AMEXCAN. He’s also a former migrant farmworker.  

“I would say the most critical thing is the message. The message that needs to go out, the message that amplifies what the vaccine is all about, and what are the benefits behind it.”   

Rocha-Peralta knows why there might be resistance among the Latino community when it comes to vaccines. In some cases, migrant workers may be undocumented or have family members who are. They could also fear their legal status would be questioned.

Rocha-Peralta said the key to keeping COVID cases down is through the shots.  

“They need to be on the frontline for the vaccine,” Rocha-Peralta said.

An outbreak in August included 31 cases in Greene County, and 27 cases in Wilson County. Those cases happened on farms with shared worker housing. 

Education forums are hosted by state health officials who share accurate information about the vaccine. Dr. Charlene Wong is a pediatric doctor. She spoke at a Latino COVID task force briefing on Monday. She said the key to informing workers is by answering questions they may have and not turning any away.

“The reason why we talk about scientists had a head start is because a lot of the concerns we hear is that, ‘these vaccines, were developed so quickly, how do we know they’re really going to work and that they’re safe?’” Wong said. “And what we really want to emphasize is that these vaccines are built on decades of work.”  

The next step, after the forums, is scheduling the vaccinations. Leaders hoping these community organizations can help with appointments and act as a trusted source when workers have questions.

For resources from NC DHHS about scheduling a vaccination appointment, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/findyourspot

Information on how NC DHHS is supporting Farmworkers.

Farmworker health clinics in North Carolina

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