Mexican factory workers cross border into Texas as part of Covid-19 vaccine awareness effort | Coronavirus


In just six minutes, a worker in a Mexican border town got off a bus in Texas last week, received the Covid-19 vaccine and was on his way home across the international bridge to Mexico.

The vaccination took place near El Paso, the city in West Texas where the coronavirus was so relentless nine months ago that inmates were used to load bodies into mobile morgues because funeral homes were overflowing.

After a harsh pandemic and with concerns over continued infections in Texas and northern Mexico, vaccination efforts are stepped up.

El Paso now has one of the highest vaccination rates among U.S. cities, according to government data – advances that have sparked cross-border awareness and an international initiative.

As of August 2, 69.7% of El Paso’s population aged 12 and over were fully immunized and 81.4% were partially immunized.

“Go from one of the cities most infected with Covid-19 in the country last fall to the fifth among all cities in the country [for vaccinations] … Is just phenomenal, ”El Paso Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser said last month. “This once again demonstrates the incredible spirit of our community.”

In an effort to raise awareness, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego launched a program to vaccinate workers in the many maquiladoras – or factories – in Juarez, the Mexican sister city of El Paso, where hundreds of thousands people work hard for the American companies that operate there.

Queues of coaches crossed the border throughout July, bringing Mexican workers and their families to the United States to be vaccinated at a specially designated site at the United States Port of Entry of Tornillo, just east of El Paso.

Up to 50,000 Johnson & Johnson single-injection vaccines have been requested and supplies have been channeled through the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. This brand was chosen so that visitors can avoid a second trip.

Many people on both sides of the border are anxious to see people’s health protected but also to see the international border reopened for non-essential travel, as pandemic restrictions continue to stifle the normal turmoil of trade between El Paso and Juarez.

Texan Yuriko Ibarra was vaccinated some time ago – as a health worker she was one of the first eligible groups. Her brother and sister-in-law, who live in Juarez and work for an American company, have had to wait longer, but recently received the blow thanks to the maquiladora program.

“They asked me a lot of questions about vaccination and of course I motivated them to do so,” Ibarra said, adding: “They had a little fever and fatigue, a little sore arm, but nothing. more.”

During the Covid outbreaks, workers in the maquiladora industry were among the hardest hit in Juarez.

“Right now they feel more secure,” Ibarra said of his relatives. “But they continue to take care of themselves, the use of masks and [hand sanitizer] remains the same, without going out as much, only for the necessary things.

While many workers flocked to the vaccination site, others resisted the vaccination, so registration was opened to the general public in Mexico. People could call to register for a seat on a bus bound for Tornillo.

“We were one of the worst [counties] in the country – then when the figures [of infections] fell, we couldn’t get people to [take a] test, ”Samaniego said. He continued, “The same thing happens with the vaccine.”

Although the situation in El Paso County is much better than at the height of the pandemic, the border remains closed to non-essential travel, although Samaniego has hoped that initiatives like his would increase the vaccination rate to the point of where reopening would be possible.

“We don’t know what levels they are looking for,” Samaniego said of federal authorities. “But we are doing everything we can to [try to achieve] collective immunity.

On Monday, the Biden administration extended the controversial Trump-era Title 42 policy that allows authorities to summarily deport undocumented migrants arriving in the United States, in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in detention centers.

Meanwhile, the Maquiladora Index Association, an organization of workers in Mexico, paid for employees and their families to visit the U.S. vaccination site in El Paso County, while the U.S. government funded the vaccine. , equipment and personnel on the American side.

Fabiola Luna Avila, president of Index, told Mexican media last week that most industrial workers in the region have now been vaccinated.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in El Paso, a pattern that is repeated in the United States.

But, as elsewhere, the county judge explained that the vast majority of positive cases in the region came from a single population: the unvaccinated El Pasoans.

“This tells you the story of the potency of the vaccine,” Samaniego said.

The maquiladora vaccination program ended on July 30, with nearly 30,000 vaccines administered.

“It’s amazing,” Samaniego said on the final day. “We were worried about the hesitation, but when you say it’s the last day, now the buses are lining up.”

Last minute vaccinations began at 8:30 am and in just three hours, more than 2,000 doses had been administered.

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