The Covid vaccine. (Liliana Frankel/The Enterprise)

ONTARIO – Agricultural workers and other frontline workers are now eligible for the Covid vaccine in Malheur County.

The state announced on Friday that it was expanding the list of those eligible for the vaccine, and the change took effect on Monday.

Besides ag workers, now eligible include adults ages 45-64 with an underlying health condition, homeless people and pregnant women.

“This is great news for Malheur County, whose economy relies heavily on the health and well-being of these valued and essential workers,” Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director, said in a press release issued Friday. “We are ready to begin vaccinating this population and have been working with food processors and onion sheds to make plans for scheduling vaccines at worksites throughout the county.”

As of 2018, there were an estimated 9,126 people living in households dependent on migrant or seasonal farmwork in Malheur County, according to a 2018 study by Oregon State University. A majority of these agricultural workers are Hispanic, and while no county-specific demographic data has yet been made available, statewide data shows that Covid has hit Hispanic communities especially hard. Across Oregon, 26% of known cases have been among Hispanics, who make up 13% of the state.

As such, the county health department plans to expand outreach to these communities, whose elders and agriculture workers are now eligible for the vaccine.

“Social media has been the No. 1 way that I’ve been using Spanish-language materials,” said Erika Harmon, public information officer for the agency. “We’ve (also) got an employee who was heading out today with some translated materials to a Spanish radio station.”

According to Harmon, “the Malheur County Health Department has been in contact with agricultural employers for the purpose of scheduling work-site vaccination clinics for employees.”

And outreach is also beginning to advocates for the homeless and to very rural communities, which are also classified as “disproportionately-affected” populations. 

In the meantime, the department will be running its usual vaccine clinic this Thursday at Four Rivers Cultural Center for all eligible community members. Those considering attending should be prepared to stand outside in line or have someone else stand in line for them. There is no cost associated with the vaccine, nor does one need insurance, although people with insurance are encouraged to bring their cards for administrative fees. 

The Malheur County Health Department continues to provide free Covid testing by appointment from Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. To make an appointment, call 541-889-7279.

According to the Malheur County Health Department, those eligible for the vaccine can also schedule appointments at the following providers:

People who are eligible to receive the vaccine can also contact the following providers for a vaccine appointment:

Valley Family Health Care:

-- Vale, 541-473-2101

-- Ontario, 541-889-2340

-- Nyssa, 541-372-5738

-- TVWC, 541-881-2800

-- TVPC, 541-889-2668

Stark Medical, Ontario, 541-889-2244

Bi-Mart, Ontario, 541-889-2141

Malheur Drug, Vale, 541-473-3333

Malheur Memorial Health, Nyssa, 541-372-2211

Medicap Pharmacy, Nyssa, 541-372-2222

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.