June 16, 2022

Resources available for COVID booster shot clinics for farmworkers

As the 2022 season gets into full swing and labor crews arrive to farms, COVID-19 outbreaks are still a risk for growers and their workers.

Despite completing the initial vaccination series, some people can still get sick from COVID-19. For agricultural employers, offering COVID-19 booster shots to workers is the best way to prevent serious or deadly COVID-19 outbreaks among workers.

As COVID-19 becomes endemic, but still serious enough to cause work disruptions and long-lasting health effects, offering booster shots to your workers can and should become standard practice.

In an economic analysis of sick leave given to workers done in January 2022, researcher Ed Kissam conservatively estimated that a COVID-19 outbreak among 100 vaccinated employees who lacked the booster dose would cost an ag employer $40,000. According to recent medical research, receiving three doses of a COVID vaccine prevents 90% of COVID-related hospitalizations, compared to the 67% of hospitalizations that are prevented by receiving just two doses. 

By hosting their local vaccine providers for COVID-19 testing and vaccine events in 2021, many employers realized that health events for workers can be quick and easy to plan. Since COVID-19 vaccines became available, farm owners around the country have found creative ways to directly provide or encourage vaccines to their workforce. Even in in the most rural areas, growers were able to form partnerships with health agencies and nonprofits to organize pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Vaccine providers have been able to provide vaccinations at convenient hours and locations to minimize disruptions to work. Those same providers, along with community organizations, also provide critical education, in appropriate languages, to workers about vaccines and the protection vaccines provide against getting sick.     

The National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) aims to make sure that these important initiatives do not end as the pandemic moves into its endemic phase. Between Migrant Health Centers, local health departments and other rural health programs, resources exist all over the United States to continue to provide COVID-19 and other basic health services and education to farmworkers, including booster shots.

Attention to workers’ health is critical to ensuring a safe and productive farm. Ask extension agents or ag labor consultants and they will tell you that investing in workers’ health and safety creates a positive work environment, increases productivity and decreases turnover.

NCFH, through a network of Migrant Health Centers and health departments, is able to help employers, grower associations, and cooperatives to set up COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine clinics. They have valuable experience and knowledge on hosting vaccine clinics and facilitating vaccines for workers, and can help make getting boosters a simple task for your business.

For help setting up free health events for workers, contact Matt Solberg at [email protected] or 512-333-0314.

— NCFH is a private, nonprofit corporation located in Buda, Texas, that is dedicated to improving the health status of farmworker families. NCFH provides information services, training and technical assistance, and a variety of products to community and migrant health centers nationwide, as well as organizations, universities, researchers and individuals involved in farmworker health. 

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