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Fresno County First In San Joaquin Valley To Vaccinate Farmworkers

Agriculture employees line up to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Pappas Family Farm in Mendota, CA.


Employees of Pappas Family Farms in Mendota received their first round of COVID-19 vaccines Monday.  

Melesio Medina is one of 50 employees who received the vaccine. He’s worked as a mechanic at Pappa’s for five years. Medina said the vaccine means he can continue to provide for his family. 

“It’s a great opportunity. There's people out there that were fighting for it,” Medina said. “They want it, so I’m just grateful I gotta take it.” 

Fresno County is the first in the San Joaquin Valley to start vaccinating agriculture workers. In a press conference at the vaccine site, Fresno County Supervisor Brian Pacheco said the plan is to vaccinate 3,000 ag workers in the next few weeks. It’s a good start, he said, but it’s not enough to protect all farm workers, let alone other essential workers. 


“We simply do not have enough vaccines and I can’t emphasize that enough. Get us more vaccines so we can protect our communities.”


Pacheco said the county is set up to distribute vaccines on a massive scale.


“We have a distribution system ready to vaccinate 30,000 people a week and we can ramp that up to 50,000 a week but we need the vaccine,” he said. 


That’s why on Tuesday the board of supervisors will vote to send a letter to state legislators demanding more vaccines for the county. Mendota Mayor Rolando Castro echoed the sentiment of the county’s supervisors. 


“Thank you for the vaccines you’ve given us now, but you want to stay healthy and we want to keep our farmworkers healthy to keep picking for you guys,” he said addressing state legislators. “Please send more vaccines.” 


The county is working with other ag employers to set up on-site distribution centers for employees. And two clinics in Mendota and Firebaugh are also prepared to distribute vaccines to farmworkers once the vaccines become available, according to Pacheco. 

Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.
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