This past March, there was a race to increase the vaccination rate and lessen the spread of COVID-19. There were also around 1000 farmworkers expected to arrive to Duplin County over the coming months.
The Duplin County farmworker vaccination taskforce was created to respond to these challenges. The taskforce is a collaborative partnership between the Duplin County Health Department, Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Management, the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Social Services, Vidant Duplin Hospital, Duplin County Schools, the NC State Cooperative Extension, Goshen Medical Center, Kinston Community Health Center, NC Department of Health and Human Services, Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, Manos Unidas, One To One With Youth, American Red Cross, Access East, United Way of Wayne County, NC FIELD, North Carolina Farmworker Health Program (NCFHP) and local churches and businesses.
The first order of business was giving personal protective equipment (PPE) to farms and farmworkers. As of May 2021, the taskforce provided nearly 69,000 disposable masks, more than 8,000 packs of cloth masks (5 per pack), 6,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, 30 bottles of disinfectant spray, almost 50 thermometers, and educational information. Duplin County Cooperative Extension staff helped NCFHP prepare nearly 2000 welcome kits with PPE to be given out to migrant farmworkers upon their arrival to the US.
Vaccination events were next on the agenda. More than 30 events have been held throughout the county. From providing the vaccinations, to planning and logistics, providing food for staff, and offering interpretation and health education, every partner has a role. Farmworkers have expressed how much they appreciate outreach workers sharing vaccine and health education. It was precisely this linguistically and culturally relevant health education that helped them feel confident in their decision to get vaccinated. To date, 3,380 vaccine doses have been administered to agricultural workers by the taskforce in Duplin County.
The Duplin County farmworker vaccination task force came together during a time of need. The immediate goal has been to educate and vaccinate all who wish to be vaccinated. The long-term outcome is lasting partnerships that improve the overall health and well-being of our agricultural community.