Vials of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo via Maryland National Guard/Flickr)

Santa Clara County launched the first mobile vaccination site focused on inoculating agricultural workers in the county.

The site is located at Monterey Mushrooms — a large agricultural employer in Morgan Hill under a United Farm Workers union contract. The location was chosen as a part of the county’s effort to ensure easy access to vaccines.

“These mobile vaccination clinics that come to community, that meet people where they work and where they live, this is how we will get ourselves out of this pandemic,” County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said.

The mobile site launched on Sunday and will come back to Monterey Mushrooms on Wednesday to vaccinate a total of about 1,000 farm workers from that site as well as other farms in the area.

On Sunday, agricultural workers were part of the second batch of essential workers to be eligible for the vaccine, following health care workers.

“Farm workers want to get vaccinated, but the majority of them don’t have access to the vaccines,” United Farm Workers Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres said.

A recent United Farm Workers Foundation survey found that of the 10,148 agricultural workers surveyed, 73 percent expressed willingness to get inoculated.

That’s why the mobile site is so necessary, Torres said.

She noted that in other California counties, it has been very difficult to get agricultural workers access to the vaccine, despite their desire to get vaccinated.

“It’s been a challenge to get counties to actually start to trigger the farm worker priority,” Torres said. “But Santa Clara County is showing us how it needs to be done throughout the state.”

The vaccine supply and staff are provided by the county and the facility while support services and outreach are spearheaded by Monterey Mushrooms, the United Farm Workers and the United Farm Workers Foundation.

Shah Kazemi, the CEO of Monterey Mushrooms said welcoming the mobile vaccine site was “the happiest day I have had since last March.”

He said the most important aspect of this collaboration is that farm workers are getting access to the vaccine, but also that they are finally getting the recognition they deserve as essential workers.

“We talk about national security,” Kazemi said. “The food supply is a significant part of national security. And we don’t need any disruption in the food supply, and all teammates, the [agricultural] workers have risked their life every day to make sure there is no disruption.”

Supervisor Cindy Chavez shared similar sentiment.

“The best way we can honor our frontline workers is what we’re doing today, which is getting them vaccinations,” Chavez said.

The mobile site is one of the many ways the county is trying to reach the hardest hit communities.

Officials say their efforts are paying off. Since vaccinations started in December, the county has vaccinated nearly 20 percent of its population and more than 60 percent of residents 65 and older, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, county testing and vaccine officer, said.

“That’s quite amazing,” Fenstersheib said. “That will go a long way at decreasing the number of deaths in our community and our hospitalizations, and it will make it safer for all of us.”

The county still is low on vaccine supply, but with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s recent approval, officials hope more vaccine will make its way to Santa Clara County.

Currently, workers in child care and education, emergency services, and food and agriculture qualify for the vaccine. This is in addition to those 65 years and older, residents in long-term care facilities and health care workers.

On March 15, vaccine eligibility will expand to include those with at least one severe health condition, according to state guidelines.

Those interested in learning more about vaccinations or scheduling a vaccine appointment can do so online at www.sccfreevax.org or by calling 211.