County supes plead to governor for more Covid-19 vaccines

Feb. 11 letter cites coming influx of farmworkers

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Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital received a shipment of 230 doses of the Covid-19 vaccination on Dec. 16. Photo: screenshot

San Benito County is home to some of the most vulnerable residents when it comes to the health impact of Covid-19—specifically, Latinos and farmworkers—but has received fewer vaccine doses per capita than most other counties in California, according to a Feb. 11 letter from the board of supervisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

In the letter signed by all five supervisors, the county asks Newsom for “immediate assistance” from the state in allocating more vaccines to San Benito County. The request cites the fact that Latinos make up 80 percent of the county’s total Covid-19 caseload, and that San Benito County currently ranks 12th lowest in the state in the per capita vaccination rate. 

“Our County is not receiving an adequate amount of vaccines to quickly and effectively vaccinate our community,” reads the letter. “As a rural agricultural county, we expect an influx of migrant agricultural workers coming to our community shortly. In anticipation of receiving more vaccine doses, the County has begun a collaborative effort with State Senator Anna Caballero, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, farmworker advocates, and growers to develop a regional-based program to vaccinate our vulnerable and essential agricultural workforce.”

The full text of the letter from the board of supervisors is below: 

As San Benito County Supervisors, we thank you for your leadership during this critical time and your efforts to address the significant health, safety, and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. We respectfully request your immediate assistance on several critical issues related to the equitable supply and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to San Benito County. Protecting the health and wellbeing of our county residents is of the utmost importance to us. Expanding the vaccination supply will promote the well being of working families, so we can return to a strong economy and normal day-to-day activities. Special consideration must be given to those disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as our Latino and farmworker community. Latinos in San Benito County make up 80 percent of the total positive Covid-19 population. This high-risk group should be a priority in the vaccination efforts. 

San Benito County ranks the 12th lowest per population vaccination rate among the 58 counties. Our County is not receiving an adequate amount of vaccines to quickly and effectively vaccinate our community. As a rural agricultural county, we expect an influx of migrant agricultural workers coming to our community shortly. In anticipation of receiving more vaccine doses, the County has begun a collaborative effort with State Senator Anna Caballero, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, farmworker advocates, and growers to develop a regional-based program to vaccinate our vulnerable and essential agricultural workforce. 

This regional-based approach, which includes Monterey County, ensures that farmworkers who are often seasonal and transient remain healthy. We request the State’s immediate assistance to allocate additional vaccine doses. San Benito County currently ranks as the 16th highest among the 58 California counties for Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents. Unfortunately, our jurisdiction had case eight and nine nationwide when the pandemic broke out. Currently, 55 cases have resulted in death due to Covid-19.

On behalf of the County of San Benito, we appreciate your consideration and look forward to working collaboratively to keep our community safe. Our County is ready to work around the clock to ramp up distribution to get more shots in arms and save lives. We thank you again for your leadership during these unprecedented times. We welcome the opportunity to discuss solutions with your team. When we work together, we can end this pandemic and return to a life of pre-pandemic normalcy.

-Signed by Supervisors Mark Medina, Bea Gonzales, Kollin Kosmicki, Peter Hernandez and Bob Tiffany. 

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