Mexican factory workers cross Texas border in Covid-19 vaccine outreach effort

In a matter of just six minutes, a factory worker from a Mexican border city stepped off a bus in 德克萨斯州 上个星期, received the Covid-19 vaccine and was heading back home across the international bridge to Mexico.

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

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

El Paso now has one of the highest vaccination rates among US cities, according to government data – progress which prompted outreach across the border and an international initiative.

作为 2 八月, 69.7% of El Paso’s population aged 12 and up were fully vaccinated and 81.4% were partially vaccinated.

“To go from one of the top Covid-19 infected cities in the nation last fall, to fifth among all cities in the country [for vaccinations] … is nothing short of phenomenal,” El Paso’s Democratic mayor, Oscar Leeser, said last month. “This demonstrates once more the incredible spirit of our community.”

In one outreach effort, El Paso county judge Ricardo Samaniego launched a program to vaccinate workers from the many maquiladoras – or factories – in Juarez, El Paso’s Mexican sister city, where hundreds of thousands toil for US-owned companies with operations there.

Lines of coaches came trundling across the border throughout July, bringing Mexican workers and their families to the US to get vaccinated at a specially designated site at the Tornillo port of US entry, just east of El Paso.

取决于 50,000 one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines were requested, and supplies were channelled through the Texas department of health and human services. That brand was chosen so that visitors could avoid a second trip.

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

Texan Yuriko Ibarra received her vaccination some time ago – as a healthcare worker she was one of the first groups eligible. Her brother and sister-in-law, who live in Juarez and work for a US company, had to wait longer, but recently received the shot through the maquiladoras program.

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

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

“马上, they feel safer,” Ibarra said of her relatives. “But they continue to take care of themselves, the use of masks and [hand sanitizer] remains the same, without going out so much, only for necessary things.”

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

“We were one of the worst [counties] in the country – then when the numbers [of infections] went down, we couldn’t get people to [take a] test,” Samaniego said. He went on: “Same thing is happening 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 had hoped that initiatives like his would raise the vaccination rate to the point where reopening would be possible.

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

On Monday the Biden administration extended the controversial Trump-era Title 42 policy that allows the authorities to summarily expel undocumented migrants arriving in the US, in a atempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in holding facilities.

同时, the Maquiladora Index Association, a workers organization in Mexico, paid for the employees and their families to come to the American vaccination site in El Paso county, while the US government funded the vaccine, equipment and personnel on the US side.

Fabiola Luna Avila, Index president, told Mexican media outlets last week that most of the employees in the factory sector in the region have 现在 been vaccinated.

Coronavirus cases are increasing again in El Paso, a pattern that is repeating reaping across the United States.

但, as elsewhere, the county judge explained that the vast majority of positive cases in the area were coming from one population: unvaccinated El Pasoans.

“That tells you the story of how powerful the vaccine is,” Samaniego said.

The maquiladora vaccination program wrapped up on 30 七月, 几乎 30,000 shots administered.

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

Last minute vaccinations started at 8.30am and in just three hours more than 2,000 doses had been administered.