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Here’s how one of Idaho’s biggest potato farms got hundreds of workers vaccinated

One of the largest potato producers in Idaho had just days to prepare for something its leaders had been anxiously awaiting for months, according to a report by Nicole Foy of Idaho Statesman, published in East Idaho News.

“The vaccines were out in December, and we started contacting our health department because we were anxious,” said Stephanie Mickelsen, whose family operates Mickelsen Farms and several potato packing and processing facilities in the Idaho Falls region. “We do have a very vulnerable and sometimes transient group of employees.”

Earlier this month, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced that agricultural employees and other food workers would be eligible for the vaccine almost a month earlier than many local health officials had anticipated. By working with “strike teams” from health care providers and pharmacies, organizing mass vaccination clinics for companies like Mickelsen Farms willing to pay to have them on-site at their plants and farms and recruiting bilingual assistance from health care staff and employers, public health districts sprung into action with just a few days notice. Hosting an on-site employee vaccine clinic is a template many Idaho agribusinesses are considering — or rushing to accomplish themselves. 

With the more-contagious COVID-19 variants spreading in Idaho and cases rising again in the Idaho Falls and Rexburg regions, about a dozen nurses and staff from occupational health provider Sterling Medical — including some nurses that came from Wyoming — vaccinated roughly 350 people employed by Mickelsen Farms, Rigby Produce and Potato Products of Idaho in four hours.

Since the Mickelsen Farms clinic last week, Eastern Idaho Public Health has already arranged more than a dozen on-site vaccine clinics for farms and agribusinesses in the region. Roughly 90% of Mickelsen Farms’ employees and 70-85% of employees at their processing plants chose to be vaccinated. Mickelsen Farms operators will eventually require all of their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, barring any religious or medical exemptions.

Source: East Idaho News. Read the full story here
Photo: East Idaho News, courtesy Mickelsen Farms

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