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Central Washington Ramps Up As Agricultural Workers Eligible For Vaccine; FEMA To Help In Yakima

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Eager seniors filled up all of the first come, first serve slots at a drive-thru COVID vaccination clinic before the first shots were even given on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Sequim, Washington. CREDIT: Tom Banse/N3

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BY DOUG NADVORNICK & SCOTT LEADINGHAM

Many older people in Washington have now been vaccinated for COVID-19, and attention has turned to other groups. Now that agricultural employees – food processors and field workers – are eligible for shots, one central Washington health district expects to be especially busy over the next few weeks.

Public health officials, such as Theresa Adkinson from the Grant County Health District, are strategizing how to get the vaccine to them.

“When COVID hit us last March, the clinics started reaching out to the farms to be able to provide education on site about hand washing and what is this virus and what does it mean for them, working and sleeping and living in these facilities. They did a fantastic job. They started at Walmart when the buses would come in to buy their supplies to actually going on site,” she said.

With those relationships already built, Adkinson says it should be easier to get vaccinations done, using mobile clinics. The health district vaccinated people at one event in Quincy last weekend, and she says pop-up clinics are planned at farms and orchards.

“It’s only been open for a short time and not all of the workers are here yet, but we’re not seeing the level of vaccine hesitancy that we were concerned about,” she said.

Adkinson says the health district has reached out with messaging to the local Spanish-language radio stations to let them know that vaccine are available.

At the same time, she says, the agency is also encouraging people to continue with the usual public health strategies. She says the number of the children and young adults contracting the virus in Grant County has increased over appointments the last week or two.

Yakima Mass Vaccination Site

As more people become eligible for COVID vaccines, more agencies and government entities are stepping in to help with the rollout.

Yakima County will soon get a boost to its existing vaccine distribution at an existing site set up at county fairgrounds. But unlike other sites around the state managed directly through the state, including in the Tri-Cities, Wenatchee and Spokane, the Yakima site will have the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Beginning March 31, a federal pilot program will bring additional vaccine doses to the existing site at Yakima’s State Fair Park. The extra support will be in addition to the regular state allocation. It’s paid for through the recently passed American Rescue Plan.

Appointments for the Yakima-area site can be made here.

For a time last year, Yakima County was among the hardest-hit areas in the country by per capita population.

Copyright 2021 Spokane Public Radio. Additional reporting from Northwest Public Broadcasting

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