Local organizations working to get CNY farmworkers vaccinated

Local News

CENTRAL NEW YORK (WSYR-TV) — For months, Central New York farmers have felt forgotten, left out of the state’s vaccination plan. Now that everyone over 16 can get their shots, the state is sending mobile vaccine clinics onto farms. 

Many Central New York farmers can’t just walk up to a clinic and get their employees vaccinated. A few things get in the way, like transportation, time, and language barriers. 

“We go to them,” said Mary Zelazny, CEO of Finger Lakes Community Health. “We reach out to them, where they’re at. With people that speak their language, that understand their cultural norms. Because the goal here is we need to get them vaccinated.”

And that’s exactly what the Finger Lakes Community Health Center and Cornell have been doing. They’re federally qualified health centers, so they get their vaccine supply from the government. They’ve hosted pop-up clinics in familiar places for farmers and they also bring mobile vaccination vans directly to the farms.

“It’s really important that we provide this because the farmworkers live in congregate housing and work closely together,” Zelazny said. “If you’ve ever seen farmworkers out in the field, they’re right next to each other.”

They’ll soon be ramping things up, vaccinating 500 to 700 farmworkers a week.

But this whole concept isn’t new.

“Earlier this year, during COVID, there were vaccinations for the flu. So this is an ongoing process that takes place year-round,” said Mary Jo Dudley, Director of the Cornell Farmworker Program.

And it’s been going on for decades: An operation built on trust that’s meant to protect the people who produce our food.

Dudley said, “And I think during the pandemic, people are more aware of where their food comes from. And hopefully more aware of whose hands are producing that food.”

Because for them, it hasn’t been easy. Many farms have had outbreaks. Groups like this are working to prevent that. 

Those at Finger Lakes Community Health have been working with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their mobile clinics, until this week when the shots were put on pause. Now, they’re on to Moderna. but they say most farmers prefer the one-dose shot.

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