Alarming myths discourage Valley farmers from getting COVID shots – GV Wire
After much reluctance to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the farmworker community is running out of options to say ‘no’.
An estimated 35% of farm workers in Central Valley say they don’t want to be vaccinated, and much of their hesitation stems from the misinformation they see on social media and in the news, according to the California Farmers Foundation.
However, due to a labor shortage, it appears many Central Valley farm businesses are unwilling to impose a vaccine that could cause farm workers to quit their jobs – a consequence that could have a critical impact. on labor shortages and, in turn, on supply chain issues.
At present, only two agricultural companies in the Central Valley have mandated the vaccines, said CFF executive director Hernan Hernandez.
“We are dealing with a population in which vaccination rates can go so far, ”Hernandez said. “Ultimately, we need to start looking at politics now – how can politics impact the choices of the communities we serve?
It doesn’t help that vaccine myths run rampant in worker-farming communities in the Central Valley, objections and excuses change every week, Hernandez says.
“Every day there is a new myth,” he said.
Among the myths: vaccines will alter their DNA, cause infertility and even hurt their children,
Farmers no longer fear COVID
A month ago, Hernandez and his team set out to collect data in the Central Valley on the immunization status of the men and women who work in California’s vast farmlands.
They wanted to hear directly from farm workers about their needs and how to best support them, their communities and their work sites.
Hernandez found that many were still hesitant or would stubbornly refuse vaccinations, regardless of the evidence for the vaccine’s efficacy and safety presented.
Many farm workers who were vaccinated did so at the start of the pandemic when fear of COVID-19 was high, Hernandez said.
Now, it appears fear levels have dropped and farm workers are exhausted after nearly two years of working and battling the pandemic. Many don’t take as many precautions as they used to.
However, California, which was one of the first states to provide vaccines to essential workers and has strongly encouraged vaccinations, continues to make vaccination of farm workers a priority.
California was also the first state to approve a farm worker assistance program – ensuring paid sick leave and stricter enforcement of guidelines – and prioritized farm workers by providing extensive PPE and COVID tests – 19.
Conclusion: Low vaccination rates in the Central Valley communities where farm workers live and work appear to be a matter of choice.
COVID-19 infections among farm workers
According to a report According to the California Research Bureau, Monterey, Fresno and Kern counties have the highest number of farm workers in the state with 92% of them Latino.
The National Center for the Health of Agricultural Workers reported that from July to November 2020, 13% of farm workers in central California were infected with COVID-19 and 20% had antibodies for COVID-19.
Hernandez’s team also found that many children of farm workers had already contracted COVID-19. In fact, 1 in 5 children in farm worker families in Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Why are Central Valley farmers saying no to vaccines?
Three months ago, the team organized a vaccination clinic for nearly 300 farm workers and noticed that 100 were missing.
From one day to the next, young farm workers who previously said they were more than willing to be vaccinated no longer wanted it. By organizing focus groups and asking hesitant farm workers about why they rejected the vaccine, Hernandez was able to understand what caused the sudden change of heart.
It turns out that the Spanish news outlet Univision organized a report the day before on an Israeli rabbi who said the vaccine would change someone’s “sexuality”. Univision has since retracted the story and verified the falsity of the rabbi’s claim.
“We are always following disinformation and it is changing day by day,” Hernandez said. “For our population, it is Not only is Facebook at the forefront, but so are the media.
Since then, CFF poll results show a wide range of excuses ranging from paranoia to conspiracy theories – as well as legitimate questions about side effects.
Some of the roughly 200 respondents to the survey cited the government wanting to control their bodies and brains, magnetic chips inserted into their arms, and vaccines causing cancer. Some repeated Univision’s debunked report that the vaccine would change their sexual orientation.
Others believed that vaccines would alter their DNA, cause infertility, injure their children, cause death within the next three to 10 years, or turn them into “zombies.”
Even though neither of these statements is true, myths continue to circulate among some farm workers, just as they do among the general population.
The Imperial County Example Offers Hope
In southern California, Imperial County experienced high infection and death rates at the start of the pandemic. However, the impoverished agricultural county now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, at 86%.
Why do farm workers there trust COVID-19 vaccines?
When a well-respected priest died of COVID-19, the event sparked mass vaccinations across the county, Hernandez said.
“In general, there is a correlation with income and vaccination rates, but I think what the Imperial County data is telling us is that it can be overcome, it just takes effort,” Fabian Rivera- Chavez, assistant professor of pediatrics and biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego, said to Calmatters.
Possible solutions? Vaccination mandates
Hernandez says education can’t go any further and the next possible step will be politics – by enacting a vaccine mandate.
“We know the data tells us that 60% (of farm workers) would support a mandatory policy and 40% would not,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez says Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order requiring vaccines for schoolchildren could play an important role in vaccinating farm workers.
“Like all other parents, their children, they are still very protective and now if they demand it in school it would cause them to consider the vaccine,” Hernandez said.
When polling farm workers, Hernandez’s team asked many farm workers what would make them get vaccinated.
The data suggests that farm workers should be forced to get vaccinated through mandatory policies that would eliminate their opportunity to earn a living.
For example, if producers and processors required vaccinations to work, farm workers would be more likely to be vaccinated. And, if proof of vaccination passports were required to travel abroad, farm workers would be vaccinated so they could visit their families in Mexico and other Latin American countries.