Chihuahua ramps up COVID-19 vaccinations

Border Report Tour

Teachers, older adults get first Pfizer shot as border state aims to avoid further coronavirus surges

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The border state of Chihuahua this week ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations, targeting teachers and adults ages 50 to 59.

More than 65,000 people got a Pfizer shot between Monday and Wednesday and vaccinating will continue through Friday, said Dr. Leticia Ruiz, head of preventive services at the state health department. The Mexican federal government sent more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine this time.

“Today was one of the most productive days. In Juarez alone more than 30,000 people participated” in the mobile vaccination clinics, Ruiz said.

Some El Paso officials have referred to the lack of widespread COVID-19 vaccinations in Juarez and in Chihuahua as the “elephant in the room” as Texas border merchants lobby for a rollback in U.S.-Mexico land travel restrictions. The non-essential travel ban is keeping most Mexicans with tourist or commuter visas from crossing the border.

Teachers and residents ages 50 to 59 stand in line at a temporary COVID-19 vaccination site in Juarez, Mexico. (courtesy State of Chihuahua)

Juarez in April experienced a surge in coronavirus infections, with 424 related fatalities. Local officials attributed the surge to family gatherings and to people not wearing face masks or practicing social distancing any more. They emphasized the relapse to make the case with Mexico City authorities for more vaccines.

El Paso already has fully vaccinated 53.2 percent of its population, whereas Juarez may be barely around 10 percent.

Teachers were the focus of the effort this time because state officials hope to have students go back to in-person classes in August. But while this was the largest mass vaccination to date in this state that borders Texas and New Mexico, officials conceded they don’t know when a second dose will be available. Seniors who received a first shot of AstraZeneca more than a month ago are still awaiting a second dose.

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, health department director in Juarez, said there’s a three-month window for a second dose to be applied without losing too much effectiveness.

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