Strategies in Reaching Farmworkers in Vaccine Distribution

Multi-Sector, Community-Based Partnerships in Riverside Vaccine Distribution

The Eastern Coachella Valley in Riverside County, CA, is home to approximately 8,000 agricultural workers and a large farm network. Farmworkers are the backbone of the food system that supplies our grocery stores and puts food on the tables of households in California and across much of the nation. When the pandemic fully gripped the nation, frontline food and farmworkers were deemed essential and continued to work. As a result, they have been some of the hardest impacted community members throughout COVID-19 pandemic.

Riverside County Public Health has laid a strong foundation for equity and used their insight to proactively address existing and foreseeable equity issues with vaccine distribution. The department quickly mobilized a vaccine task force and invited faith-based and community-based organizations to the table. In partnership with the Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative [spearheaded by the Desert Healthcare District & Foundation (DHCD) and community-based partners, like TODEC], the department was able to launch mobile vaccination clinics that brought COVID-19 vaccines directly to farmworkers in the fields. Community-based partners helped register farmworkers in person and in their preferred languages, including indigenous languages such as Purepecha. Community partners also worked to address a broad range of concerns, such as concerns over vaccine side effects, immigration status and public charge. To date, the mobile vaccination clinic partnership efforts have successfully vaccinated well over 5,000 farmworkers throughout the Eastern Coachella Valley (and counting!). More recently, these successful efforts have been elevated by the State as promising practices to replicate across California.

Key Partners

Key Funding Mechanisms


  • The health department created their own vaccine index, layering data from the Healthy Places Index and other data sets, to identify and prioritize vaccine allocation in order to target communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
  • DHCD supplemented the county’s funding through $1.2 million in CARES Act Funding to form the Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative, which provided additional and critically needed support for CBOs to expand and augment their capacity to conduct outreach and engage communities in vaccination efforts and COVID-19 testing.
  • The Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative provide a space for ongoing and effective communication between collaborative partners on how to strategize to engage hard to reach populations.
  • Community Health Workers (CHWs) helped deliver simplified messaging in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way to farmworkers in the fields and in their communities.
  • Community-based partners, like TODEC, engaged with and provided education and myth busting work for farmworkers around COVID-19 as early as March 2020 and often afterwards. The early groundwork helped farmworkers make informed decisions about receiving the vaccine when available.
  • TODEC’s understanding of and long-standing relationships with the farmworker communities made them acutely aware of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 could have in their communities. TODEC used their knowledge and their position to advocate early on at the state level to include agriculture and food workers in the first tier of vaccine prioritization.
  • Community-based partners, like TODEC, engaged large groups of volunteers and strategically engaged youth to assist in outreach to community elders; volunteers assisted with registration by bringing tech support directly to farmworkers.
  • Partnerships with growers played an important role in ensuring that vaccinations could be provided on site, and that farmworkers were able to receive vaccinations during paid work hours. Some growers also provided transportation support when needed, including bus transportation for farmworkers at neighboring fields.
  • Partnerships with the local Catholic Diocese also helped create trusted avenues and messengers to help disseminate information, education, and to debunk myths.
  • Close partnerships with local CBOs and faith-based organizations ensured that special vaccination links for farmworkers were closely monitored.

Key Takeaways

  • Additional funding, collaboration, and shared goals can facilitate partnerships between local health departments, community-based partners, and employers to address immediate COVID-19 needs and beyond.
  • CBOs play a critical role in effective outreach and engagement in hard-to-reach communities by providing information in-language, in a culturally appropriate way, and going to where farmworkers live and/or work.
  • Early and ongoing outreach from CBOs helped build a foundation of trust and education to improve vaccine uptake among farmworker communities.
  • Strong advocacy from knowledgeable and trusted CBOs helped ensure that farmworkers were included in the first tiers of vaccine prioritization.
  • Proactive partnerships with growers to provide vaccines on site and during work hours can provide safe and reliable access to COVID-19 vaccines for farmworkers.
  • Build power and engage people beyond just the plans for vaccines – start to think of long-term and permanent changes to our systems and structures.