May 18, 2021Farmworkers educated on vaccinations in North Carolina
To educate North Carolina farmworkers about vaccination, and especially COVID-19 vaccination, NC State Extension is offering a new program called Get Informed and Decide or, in Spanish, Me Informo y Decido.
The program is part of Cooperative Extension efforts nationwide to deliver education that advances adult immunization in rural communities, and new federal funding is helping enhance the program.
In creating Me Informo y Decido, the NC State Extension Farmworker Health and Safety Program team drew from its experience in educating farmworkers about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and in distributing personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Cintia Aguilar, Latino programs manager with NC State Extension, led the team in developing a new educational tool that includes COVID-19 prevention and vaccine education.
“Using existing capacity, we developed Me Informo y Decido with the objective of facilitating a space for reflection, dialogue and education about COVID-19 prevention and vaccination for agricultural workers,” Aguilar said. “The project is designed to help agricultural workers make decisions based on reliable and trustworthy information.”
Three program educators – Roberto Rosales, Javier Rivera and Olivia Antonio-Ventura – have trained about 600 farmworkers. They also delivered three train-the-trainer events to 28 agencies.
‘Farmworker health is vital’
Extension’s COVID-19 training is usually delivered along with Extension’s standard training on other health issues: pesticide safety, heat stress and green tobacco illness.
The effort focuses on eight North Carolina counties in Eastern North Carolina: Wilson, Nash, Edgecombe, Johnston, Wayne, Sampson, Duplin and Bladen.
“This program provides farmworkers with the information they need to protect their own health,” said Susan Jakes, NC State Extension’s associate state program leader for community and rural development. “These workers are essential partners in producing the crops and livestock that help feed people in North Carolina and beyond, and so farmworker health is vital.”
Program is example of nationwide Extension effort
Me Informo y Decido is an example of the early contributions that the national Cooperative Extension System has implemented to provide vaccine education.
A new initiative of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided funding to allow NC State Extension to fine-tune Me Informo y Decido, continue to deliver the program in Eastern North Carolina and to raise awareness about the training.
NIFA recently received $9.95 million from the CDC to support land-grant universities and the Extension System in delivering immunization education to the communities they serve to improve vaccine confidence.
“Cooperative Extension agents are recognized and trusted messengers in their communities and can help deliver fact-based information on the COVID-19 vaccine and other adult vaccines,” said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases.
“We know vaccination rates overall are lagging in rural communities, and Extension agents can play an important role in building COVID-19 vaccine confidence and increasing vaccine access within the communities they serve,” Butler added.
– Dee Shore, North Carolina State University
Extension’s Roberto Rosales (foreground) is the program’s lead educator. Photo: North Carolina State University