Augusta University helps administer COVID-19 vaccines to farmworkers in South Carolina

Augusta University students, faculty and staff recently volunteered at a Titan Farms facility in Saluda County to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to more than 800 farm workers.

Dr. Pam Cromer, director of the Costa Layman Outreach Programs, said volunteers at the March 13 Hispanic Farmworker Clinic included two undergraduate, six graduate and seven medical school students, three faculty members and nine translators, along with employees of Carolina Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Care Center based in Greenwood, South Carolina.

“I just wanted to make sure I personally thank each one of you for coming out today and making the Hispanic Farmworker Clinic a huge success,” Cromer said in an email to volunteers. “I was told by many of the Carolina Health Care (CHC) executives that your assistance was crucial to provide and expedite the COVID-19 vaccine clinic so efficiently.

“The highly fluent interpreters at every station were a major key. Thank you to each and every one of the nine interpreters who donated their Saturday to help this mission. CHC also realized the value of our health care workforce skill and talent in helping to deliver this service.”

woman with needleCromer mentioned the timing of the event was essential as the farms are approaching peach season.

“These workers are critical to the economy and health of our communities, it is therefore both an opportunity and a privilege for us as direct and indirect health care providers to keep these workers healthy and to prevent/stop the spread of COVID-19.”

In all, 868 farm workers (86.8% of total employees) from Titan Farms, Costa Layman Farms, J.W. Yonce and Sons, Dixie Bell Peaches and Watsonian Peaches received their first vaccine shot. They are scheduled to receive their second dose in April.

Cromer said the Carolina Health Centers, which has been a long-term community partner of Augusta University’s Costa Layman Outreach, runs a Migrant Clinic in Trenton, South Carolina, and was able to secure the Moderna vaccine. Their staff included a pharmacist, multiple data control employees, an injection team and a nurse practitioner to monitor workers for post-injection reactions. CHC’s staff set up the work stations and paired the AU teams to complement the logistics of this mission.

“Our nursing and medical students helped to prepare and process the delivery of the injections and assist with monitoring for immediate side effects, in addition to completing immunization record cards to give to the farmworkers for their personal records,” Cromer said. “Several of our nursing and medical students are bilingual and facilitated the entire processes by serving as preceptors at strategic check stations. We had a total of 20 volunteers consisting of nursing/medical students and volunteer interpreters, many of whom have participated with our outreach to this community for multiple years, as we have been working with the Costa Layman Farms for 15 years.”

There was a 10-day notice that vaccine was shipped and available for distribution. The College of Nursing sent out a call for volunteers, and Cromer said there was an immediate response from the AU Health Sciences Campus, Institute of Public and Preventive Health, the Medical College of Georgia, as well as our community of interpreters, to include the ALAS Clinic and the Student Spanish Organization.

Cromer said she is grateful for the long-standing relationship with Titan Farms, which has supported AU’s annual health fairs for many years, as well as owner Chalmers Carr’s insight to collectively host this COVID-19 vaccine clinic for the area’s peach industry farmworkers.

“All of these farms have made donations in support of our annual Costa Layman Interdisciplinary Health Fairs for many years,” she said. “With 868 farmworkers receiving the vaccine, this shows the wisdom, dedication and collegiality of these farms to ensure a healthy workforce that includes the most recent H2A workers, while simultaneously protecting the communities within rural sections of Edgefield, Saluda, Johnston and Lexington counties. It also demonstrates the increasing confidence in stopping the COVID pandemic.

“This is a moment in history and I am grateful to have our students and Augusta University be a part of a program to stop the COVID pandemic,” Cromer added. “The long-standing relationship with CHC’s administrators and their Migrant Clinic Outreach Coordinator Kathy Jennings, in addition to the farm owners, made this possible.”

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Written by
Miguelangelo Hernandez

Miguelangelo Hernandez is a senior communications and media coordinator at Augusta University. He covers College of Allied Health Sciences, College of Nursing, The Dental College of Georgia, College of Science and Mathematics and Augusta University Athletics. You can reach him at mighernandez@augusta.edu or (706) 993-6411.

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Written by Miguelangelo Hernandez

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University and AU Health. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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