ADAMS COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — The numbers will be small, at least at first and at least compared to large-scale vaccination centers. But agricultural workers could soon have the vaccine go to them, rather than having to figure out how to go to get a vaccine.
“We are pleased to finally be at this moment where we can both acknowledge our food workers but also get ’em vaccinated and protect the families and communities, and protect our food system,” said Pa. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, speaking Wednesday after touring Adams County’s large-scale vaccination site, at the county’s emergency services center near Gettysburg.
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Mobile vaccinations for agricultural workers would operate alongside similar efforts to reach homebound seniors and other people with difficulty accessing shots, said Ann Kunkel, WellSpan’s vice president of community health and engagement. She said agricultural workers face three primary challenges: trust, fear and barriers to access. The mobile units, along with resources like Spanish-speaking call center agents, will address those barriers, she said.
Kunkel said the mobile unit would vaccinate about 30 people per week, a small number compared to an average of 900 per week vaccinated during the first three weeks at the county’s large-scale site — but critical, perhaps, if those 30 people would otherwise go unvaccinated.
Kay Hollabaugh, co-owner of the Hollabaugh Brothers fruit and vegetable farm in Biglerville, said the challenges for agricultural workers aren’t always what people might guess.
“These are full-time people with health insurance,” she said, pointing to two workers preparing a patch of apple trees getting ready to bloom. “But they’re young men who are very healthy. And they don’t have a family doctor.”
More predictably, she said, language can be an issue — many workers speak limited English. And she said unlike the full-time, year-round workers, who tend to have smartphones and reliable internet access, seasonal workers who work at local farms only during picking season are more likely to lack those basics.
Hollabaugh said she would welcome a mobile vaccination unit at her farm.
Separately, Adams County Commission Chairman Randy Phiel announced at the event that the vaccination site, which the county operates with WellSpan, had just doubled its days of operation from three per week to six. Appointments are available for upcoming days, Phiel said, on WellSpan’s site or by calling 1-855-851-3641.