NYCAMH takes vaccines to farms

ContributedJudy Graham,a nurse with NYCAMH, gives a first vaccination to Rebecca Prime in this undated photo

Bassett Healthcare Network’s New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health is working to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to Central New York’s farming community, according to a media release.

“Working in public health, you prepare for community emergencies through drills,” Nicole Blanchard, data systems administrator at NYCAMH, said in the release. “These drills are typically held in big open spaces — a gymnasium or a parking lot — because that’s where you expect to set up something like a vaccination site. But this past spring, we’ve had to set up in just about any corner of a farm you can imagine. On one freezing cold and snowy day, we were jammed into a 10-feet-by-10-feet space in the back of a milk house. Another day we were in the back of a barn with people working on tractors and cows wandering by.”

NYCAMH n urses Judy Graham and Sue Ackerman have regularly teamed up for local flu vaccination clinics, but delivering COVID-19 vaccinations to farmworkers posed a completely new challenge, the release said.

NYCAMH has been working to establish mobile, on-site clinics to accommodate the needs of local farms. In addition to regular challenges presented by working farms, there are personal barriers faced by the farmworkers.

To address language barriers, vaccination clinic teams include bilingual staff members Cristina S. Hansen Ruiz, Dahlia Sheehan-Yassin and Anna Meyerhoff, according to the release.

“Handing folks a registration form to fill out can be overwhelming for them,” Meyerhoff, NYCAMH’s senior bilingual agricultural safety and education coordinator, said. Meyerhoff, Ruiz and Sheehan-Yassin talk about the vaccine, prepare workers for possible side effects and read through state forms with personalized attention.

“These vaccination clinics are an opportunity to leverage our great relationships with local farms and workers in our community,” Blanchard said. “Our unique position allows us to reach people the big sites can’t.”

Nearly 200 workers have been vaccinated at NYCAMH on-farm clinics, and NYCAMH plans to continue as long as they are needed, the release said. “We’re just doing one little bit of the much bigger effort,” Meyerhoff said. “But these are the people who work hard to feed the rest of us. They are as essential and important as anyone.”

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