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April 19, 2021

Hartnell nursing students educate hundreds of Gonzales ag workers about Covid-19 vaccine

More than 550 Taylor Farms employees attend information sessions

GONZALES — Registered and vocational nursing students from Hartnell College recently went to Taylor Farms in Gonzales to present information about Covid-19 vaccines and answer questions regarding the process of getting immunized.

“The purpose is to be here to give presentations on the importance of getting vaccinated with the Covid vaccine,” said Varo Hernandez-Torres, a second-year RN student at Hartnell, who spoke to agricultural workers on Feb. 23. “More than anything, I’d like to demystify any of the questions that they might have or any misconceptions that they might have.”

The information sessions began at 6:30 a.m. last Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 23-24, with nursing students having spoken to a total of 550 workers.

The Taylor Farms workers, warmly dressed for jobs inside the refrigerated plant, sat outside on widely spaced folding chairs to listen to the 20-minute briefing before heading inside to begin their shifts. 

Several of them posed questions related to the goal of achieving herd immunity and its value for family members, as well as the varied types of Covid-19 vaccine.

Hernandez-Torres was one of a handful of students who stood in front of Taylor Farms employees, organized by department, sometimes 150 at a time, and discussed information and answered questions, whether as a group or one-on-one.

“We’re educating farmworkers about the benefits of the vaccine and seeing if they have any questions, trying to dispel some of the myths that are surrounding the vaccine,” said Dr. Sonja Shepperd, associate director of nursing. “The students are on their own. I said, ‘Here’s the material. You need to study it; you’re going to be presenting it.’ They just kind of took it and owned it.” 

“We’ve already had a few people come up and be honest, ‘it sounded kind of scary to me,’ then I explained to them the importance of getting vaccinated and herd immunity and they shared that they feel better about it,” Hernandez-Torres added. “A lot of people have their own questions and sometimes they come up to me because they didn’t want to ask in front of the whole group.”

The presentation was prepared and then students signed up to be presenters. Hernandez-Torres said he volunteered and practiced the presentation to get ready for the Spanish-only sessions.

“It’s more the Q&A that they get the most information from,” he said.

Hernandez-Torres said that most of all, he wanted to reassure workers about the importance of being vaccinated and dispel any fears or misconceptions they might have.

“I think just by giving them all the facts we can remind them that in the end this is going to help everybody,” he said.

Student nursing volunteers have also continued to administer the Covid-19 vaccine to hundreds of people across the Salinas Valley. 

In January, they helped deliver the second vaccine dose to emergency first responders and others at locations of the Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, serving 1,400 people, and they also have been administering the vaccine at Mee Memorial Hospital in King City two days a week since mid-January.

Sean Roney
Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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