Vaccination of Farmworkers

Katie Ruiz, LVN, administers a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 single dose vaccine during a drive-thru clinic at Calexico Movie Theaters parking area in Calexico Thursday, March 25.

CALEXICO — Nearly 800 farmworkers were vaccinated for COVID-19 Thursday, March 25, at the Calexico Movie Theaters parking area. 

Vehicles kept on coming to form a line along Scaroni Road for about half mile, which stretched from the Calexico Movie Theaters and beyond the bridge north of the Central Main Canal. Volunteers and Calexico Police officers kept the traffic orderly. 

“We just wanted to give something back to the farm workers, harvest crews, and food processors who worked daily during this pandemic,” said Scott Howington, president of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association. 

“We should take care of people who take care of us. This was our way of appreciating what they’ve done.” According to Howington, the harvest season for broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and other vegetables was almost ending. Then, farmworkers will either rest or migrate to another harvest area. 

The Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association partnered with Vo Medical Clinics to reach out to essential workers in the agriculture industry. 

“We were excited to vaccinate our farm and food processing workers,” said Dr. Tien Vo of Vo Medical Clinics, a medical group with clinics in Calexico, El Centro, and Brawley. In March of this year, the group broke ground for the construction of a two-story medical facility in El Centro that was anticipated to be completed early next year. 

“We were expecting 500 farmworkers, but now it looks like we have up to 800,” said Dr. Vo, who divided his attention inoculating farmworkers seated in their cars and checking with his staff at the drive thru vaccination stations. 

According to Dr. Vo, he received 1,500 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 single-dose vaccines from the California Governor’s Office. From this, 300 doses were previously administered at his clinics. Close to 800 were administered at Thursday’s event. The following day, at 2:30 a.m., he prepared 200 more doses for farmworkers in Calexico. 

“They love this, because its only one shot,” said Dr. Vo. The single dose was advantageous for the farmworkers, according to Dr. Vo. They don’t have to come back for another dose because they are busy working in the field to provide food for the community.  

According to Dr. Vo, he had 10 staff workers and 30 volunteers to help with the inoculation. However, there were other volunteers who showed up at the site after learning of the event announced in social media. 

“I need to be healthy,” said Mario Valverde, JJO Trucking LLC in Brawley, as he waited in his car. “I have four kids and my wife takes care of them. I’m the only provider.” 

Another farmworker waiting for his turn was Enrique Ayala, a resident of Calexico, who works with sprinklers for Vessey & Company based in Holtville. He needed the vaccine to protect his life. “Para proteger mi vida.” 

The Calexico Theaters was an ideal place for the vaccination, said Shelby Dill, executive director of IVVGA. It was strategically located and accessible to farmworkers and their contractors, many of whom call Mexicali, Mexico their home. “We don’t want them getting sick in the field.” 

“If people are healthy, they are happy and this makes for a more consistent work force,” said Howington. 

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