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Farm to arm: Atrium Health delivering COVID-19 vaccines straight to rural workers

Atrium Health has started a new program that brings COVID-19 vaccines directly to farms across the region.

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — While visiting Davidson County on Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stressed the need to reach more rural areas of the state where vaccination rates are lower.

In those rural counties, experts believe some people are hesitant, but many are facing different barriers and have put off getting the shot. A new program from Atrium Health will bring those shots directly to farms across the Charlotte region. 

Dr. Dawn Caviness, a family medicine physician with Atrium Health – Cabarrus, understands how a farmer thinks.

“I grew up on a farm. My dad was the town veterinarian," Caviness said. "Some of my earliest and most fond memories are going out on farm calls with him to deliver calves or take care of horses."

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Caviness knows working on a farm is all-consuming and said studies show many farmers don't prioritize consistent health care. That same trend shows in vaccination rates in rural areas of North Carolina.

“Also with the farm workers, often these are non-English-speaking workers on a government contract, they do not drive, they live on the edge of the farm,” Caviness said.

So far, Atrium Health has brought the shots directly to 10 different farms in the region, working through some hesitancy and breaking down the barriers keeping many from getting vaccinated.

“Most of them know that it's important and they had it on their to-do list, it was just way down the to-do list and we just made it easy,” Caviness said. “I think another reason this work was important is this is a way to thank the farmers who have worked day in, day out."

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Atrium has helped in places like Iredell County, where according to state data, 38% of residents are partially vaccinated and 36% are fully protected. That's well below the state's overall vaccination rate. 

“The [Iredell County] health department was awesome, but they just could not get out to those, they said we cannot get to the farmers, and they couldn't get the workers and having a lot of logistics so we were able to step in and help where that need was,” Caviness said.

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So far they’ve given 208 COVID-19 vaccines through this program. They are prepared to go to more farms, anyone interested can email Sherry.Wilson@atriumhealth.org or leave a message at 704-403-1042 with the following information:

1. How many vaccines you need brought to your farm or agricultural business?

2. Do you have a vaccine preference?

  • Moderna/Pfizer: Two-shot vaccines
  • Johnson and Johnson: One-shot vaccine

Vaccine selection will depend on available, but if there's a strong preference, Atrium will try to accommodate those requests.

3. The address where you would like us to meet you to administer the vaccine and a description of the address site (ex. home, barn, field).

4. The best phone number to contact you to arrange the farm visit date and time.

5. Does anyone getting the vaccine at your location speak Spanish or other language? If so, let us know and we will bring an interpreter with us.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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