South Coast agriculture employees like farmworkers and ranch and farm owners can get their first COVID-19 vaccines starting next week. Four clinic dates have been established through a partnership between the San Mateo County Street and Field Medicine Team and South Coast nonprofit Puente de la Costa Sur.

San Mateo County announced last week that “1B” workers, including teachers, law enforcement and those working in the agriculture industry, will become eligible for vaccines starting Feb. 22. Puente staff jumped into action to schedule clinics and reach out to the 39 farms in the Pescadero, Loma Mar, La Honda and San Gregorio areas, Puente Executive Director Rita Mancera said.

“I cannot hide it. I’m so excited,” Mancera said. “We have been waiting for the green light for a while.”

The walk-through clinics will run from 4 to 8 p.m. for four consecutive Fridays starting Feb. 26, and will be open to the South Coast agricultural community by appointment only. The clinics will be held at Pescadero Elementary School at 620 North St. People are required to bring photo identification and should plan to spend 45 minutes at the site, including 15 minutes for observation after the shot.

Appointments are open to all employees at local farms and ranches, which Mancera estimates to total more than 400 people. That’s higher than the county’s estimate, at just around 160 eligible people, so Mancera said she’s working with the county to get more shots per clinic.

“We want to start that conversation early on about actually needing more than that number of vaccines,” Mancera said. “I hope there is some room for advocacy.”

County staff will be administering the Moderna vaccines from the county’s supply, while Puente staff will handle site logistics, registration support and interpretation services at the Pescadero Elementary School clinics. Mancera said Punete is not asking for volunteers.

Puente staff are currently reaching out to farms and ranches to schedule appointments and will visit in person this week with physical sign-up forms so technology isn’t a barrier to signing up. Mancera said, so far, interest in the shots has been high, and they’re making sure to reach out to employers and workers directly to assess their individual needs.

She said Puente has not yet received any requests for help with transportation, but will address those on an as-needed basis.

“That’s exactly the benefit of hosting something local,” Mancera said.

While no clinics are currently scheduled for Half Moon Bay or Midcoast agricultural workers, county teams are working to replicate the site across the coast. County infectious disease specialist Frank Trinh, who is working specifically on getting the vaccine to farmworkers and people experiencing homelessness in the county, said partnering with community organizations like Puente, Ayudando Latinos a Soñar and the city of Half Moon Bay will be key to reaching every eligible resident.

Trinh said vaccine supply is still plaguing distribution, but the county’s community-based strategy is designed to overcome barriers like technology, language and trust in the vaccine. Also coming soon are distribution sites at county-run clinics, including the Coastside Clinic in Half Moon Bay, for its patients.

“We’re trying to bring the vaccine clinics closest to where people live and work,” Trinh said.

No clinics have been established specifically for teachers yet either, but the county’s Office of Education has asked districts to compile lists prioritizing educators working in-person or with high risk factors. Because of the relatively small number of educators in the county, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District Superintendent Amy Wooliever said at last week’s board meeting that she’s hopeful the process will be smooth.

“I do think that once the vaccines are available that it will happen rather quickly,” Wooliever said.

(1) comment

uffish thought

I understand prioritizing farm workers who directly handle food like fruit and eggs. But what's the thinking behind prioritizing young ranch hands who merely feed cattle or sheep, so that older people and those with some health issues are left behind? Anyone know?

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