Health System and Puente Partner to Immunize Farm Workers

Mindful of how dangerous farm work can be, Puente undertook an unprecedented immunization project in April that touched the lives of hundreds of farm and nursery workers. Puente teamed up with a medical team from San Mateo County Health System to administer a TDAP vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) at 18 different farms around Pescadero and one winery in La Honda. The outreach campaign, Puente’s most ambitious immunization mission to date, resulted in vaccines for 229 farm workers over four days in April. It was Puente’s most extensive field immunization drive.

That’s 229 people who won’t be at risk of a tetanus infection the next time they hurt themselves on the job, says Ben Ranz, Puente’s Community Outreach Coordinator.

“Obviously farm workers work with sharp objects and have the risk of cutting themselves and getting infected.”

Ranz coordinated the site visits with San Mateo Medical Center’s Coastside Clinic as well as other County public health staff, which provided the supplies and medical staff. The idea for the TDAP shots came from an email he received from Blue House Farm, a small organic farm in Pescadero where a worker had cut himself. It was unclear whether he had ever received a tetanus shot, and a Blue House Farm representative wanted to know whether Puente was offering that service.

Puente board member Gabriel Echeverria at Silver Terrace Nursery

Puente board member Gabriel Echeverria at Silver Terrace Nursery

Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel saw an opportunity to meet a crucial need. She also thought to combine the immunizations with health screenings, to better understand the overall health needs of the community. Therefore, during the immunizations, Puente also collected information on how many people had medical insurance, and if so, what kind.

When voters approved Measure A last year, the county set aside monies to build and staff a mobile health van that will begin circulating on the South Coast in late 2014 or early 2015. But “there’s no reason to wait to provide services,” says Lobel. “Everyone felt that we wanted to see progress right away.”


Team gets ready for line of workers

It was also a great opportunity for the staff of the Coastside Clinic to meet some of the participants they will be serving once the medical van starts to make the rounds and increase South Coast residents’ familiarity with the resources and services offered by the County.

Puente coordinates flu shots each year, typically in conjunction with a big event like Día de los Muertos. But April’s field outreach helped Puente contact a whole new segment of the population who don’t normally come into town.

The TDAP shots were such a success that Puente is already planning its next medical outreach campaigns for later this year. They will focus on mammograms and blood screenings for diabetes, a common ailment in the farm worker population.

“This is just going to be the beginning,” says Lobel.

“We are so pleased to have reached so many through this effort given our goal to prevent health issues from occurring at all,” said Health System Director of Strategic Operations, Srija Srinivasan.  “We value our partnership with Puente and laud the tireless, “can do’ team that worked closely with the farm owners to reach these residents.”

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