SALINAS VALLEY — Monterey County companies, organizations and agencies have partnered to host mass vaccination sites weekly, with the latest having taken place at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City last Saturday.
Two mass clinics had already taken place earlier this month in Salinas, during which an estimated 3,000 people were vaccinated at each. The King City clinic had an estimated 2,400 doses administered to local agricultural workers.
Another mass vaccination site also took place the same Saturday in Greenfield, where an estimated 400 doses were administered.
Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez said such sites will continue weekly in a large-scale effort by the county to get the essential ag labor workforce immunized, before eventually spreading out to other sectors of the population.
He noted the locations would shift throughout the county, depending on where the greatest need is determined in any given week, and expects them to rotate between Salinas and King City.
The March 20 mass vaccination clinic in King City was the result of a partnership between numerous agencies, including the Grower-Shipper Association (GSA), which organized workers in need by employer. Clinica de Salud and Hartnell College’s nursing program offered personnel to administer the vaccinations, and the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds provided the area to conduct the operation.
Lopez also noted the UFW for helping with parking, the county Public Works department for providing traffic cones, King City Police Department for assisting with traffic control, and many others all the way up to Congressman Jimmy Panetta for helping secure the larger quantities of vaccine doses.
“It takes everybody to be involved in this type of effort with this many people to do something this good,” said Panetta, who characterized the effort as a “war on Covid,” while touring the site. He added, “This isn’t going to be over anytime soon.”
GSA President Christopher Valadez called the operation one of the largest mass vaccine concentrated events for farmworkers in California.
“This site wouldn’t be possible without the community partnership,” Valadez said.
He explained the Saturday operation provided immunization to workers from an estimated 75 companies.
“When you’re doing mass vaccs, you have to be sensitive to how well can you grab them to come back for the second shot,” Valadez said.
He noted the ongoing logistics of a two-dose vaccine, with the recipients of the first round of doses in Salinas needing to get their follow-up shot this Saturday, March 27. He said the future will provide flexibility when the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine becomes available to their partnership, but he has high confidence that workers would return for the second dose.
Clinica CEO Dr. Max Cuevas also echoed a desire to increase efficiency with the single-dose vaccine when it becomes available.
Lopez pointed out the massive organization needed between all the partner organizations to make sure the day went smoothly. He said the first volunteers showed up at the fairgrounds at 6:30 a.m., even though doses began at 8 a.m., and went through 4 p.m.
Multiple shifts of volunteers, 80 in total, kept the operation running to keep people moving quickly from the main gate, sorted by company, and onto their injection and wait time in the Orradre Building.
“It’s organized in order to give us the efficiency we need to get to 3,000 people in a single day,” Lopez said. “Everything flows because people know what their role is … it’s one clean flow, circle through and it’s hard to get lost in the system.”
Lopez said as the programs continue, the largest lessons learned have been about efficiency. The first operation in Salinas ran one hour behind. The second Salinas operation ran half an hour ahead of schedule.
“If there’s anybody who understands logistics and how to get something done on a mass scale, it’s Monterey County ag,” Lopez said about the role agricultural companies and the GSA played in making sure everyone showed up ready to go with the needed paperwork.
For now, the mass vaccination sites aren’t open to the public, instead operating in closed pods only for participating employers. Valadez said all it takes for an ag employer to get involved is to contact the GSA.
“People are ready and willing, you just have to make it as easy as possible to get to it, and that’s what these are for,” Lopez said. “Taking care of people where they live is critically important.”