Mexican cities bordering Texas lag behind on vaccinations, keeping travel restrictions in place

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With Mexico keen to reopen the US-Mexico border soon, facts on the ground show that border towns face a monumental task of vaccinating more than half of their population in just a few weeks.

Although the intention was to reopen the border at the end of July, US border officials are demanding that border towns achieve at least a 70% vaccination rate. The date could be delayed by a few weeks or months if the vaccination does not progress. Some municipalities are only 25%.

Data shows that Mexican municipalities bordering Texas clearly lag behind U.S. border counties in COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Mexican and US officials met last week to discuss a plan to reopen the land border to non-essential traffic. The US-Mexico border has been closed to tourist visa holders since March 2020.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister, said the reopening is expected to take place as soon as Mexican border towns have a higher number of people vaccinated – levels similar to those in border counties in the United States.

That’s why this month, the United States donated 1.35 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – which is a single-dose vaccine – for distribution in Mexico to people over 18 living in the 39 border municipalities.

Distribution of numbers

The numbers show just how big the gap in immunization rates is.

In Nuevo Laredo, for example, 173,712 people were vaccinated as of June 21, or 40.8% of the city’s residents, according to data from the local health service.

Neighboring Webb County, where the city of Laredo is located, has already given 79.9% of its population at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Texas State Department of Health Services.

In Ciudad Juárez, the number of people vaccinated reached 400,186, or 26.4% of its population as of June 21, the Mexican Secretariat for Social Development said.

Across the border in El Paso County, 72.9% of people are vaccinated, according to DSHS data.

As of June 17, Reynosa had administered 42,000 injections – representing only 5.9% of its inhabitants, according to information provided by the city’s social communication service.

In neighboring Hidalgo County, Texas, where McAllen is located, 70.7% of its population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the DSHS.

Mexico does not have public vaccination data by community, and in some cases local governments do not even know how many of their residents have been vaccinated.

In contrast, the United States has allowed open access to this data, breaking down the numbers by city and county.

Mexico’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy is different from that of the United States

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has distributed vaccines by age group, regardless of profession or levels of health risk.

As of June 23, 41,368,066 doses of vaccine had been administered throughout Mexico. However, only 17,463,895 people were fully vaccinated with two doses, according to the Mexican Ministry of Health.

Mexico administers six different COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Cansino, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sputnik V and now Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

Setting goals

In June, Mexico immunizes people between the ages of 40 and 49.

And in only one part of the border, people are vaccinated with the J&J vaccines given by the Biden administration.

On June 15, the shipment of 1.35 million J&J vaccines donated by the United States arrived in Mexico.

They were immediately sent to the Mexican state of Baja California, where the Tijuana-San Ysidro border post, the busiest in the world, is located.

Other states bordering Mexico have not received any of these vaccines and are waiting for them to launch their own vaccination efforts for people over 18.

In Baja California, the state government has implemented a vaccination strategy allowing it to massively vaccinate more than 200,000 people in a single day at its various vaccination sites.

The goal is to administer 1.3 million vaccines in 10 days.

Using the slogan “Don’t let them take it away,” local authorities are calling on people to get vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent the remaining vaccines from being sent to other states.

“If we don’t get vaccinated, they won’t open the border,” Alonso Pérez Rico, Baja California health secretary, said on a video call Monday.

“If we achieve collective immunity, we would have a good argument to open the border.”

As of June 21, the municipality of Tijuana had vaccinated 682,940 people, or 35.5% of its population.

Baja California’s accelerated vaccination effort still has a week to go. He wants to vaccinate at least 660,000 additional people by June 27 to vaccinate 70% of its population and then perhaps open the border.

Waiting for shipments

Meanwhile, towns along the Texas border are still waiting for J&J vaccines.

“We have already vaccinated 40% of our population and we know that we still have the 18-39 age group. We believe that this will be a fairly large number, ”Alejandro Cervantes, director of the health department of the city of Nuevo Laredo, told a conference on Monday.

“We do not yet have a precise timetable. We are still awaiting confirmation from the federal government and the state as to when the vaccines will be dispatched ”.

Other cities along the border with Texas, such as Ciudad Juárez, Piedras Negras and Reynosa, have also not received any of the vaccines sent by the United States.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said it was important to achieve regional immunity to open the border.

Unsure of what protocols or security measures would be in place when a border reopens, Samaniego said people entering the country through Texas would not need proof of vaccination as Gov. Greg Abbott said people cannot be forced to show a vaccination card. .

U.S. border towns also face the challenge of determining how many of their residents have actually been vaccinated, as vaccine tourism flourished and people with the means to buy plane tickets have come to the United States to be vaccinated. .

In addition, people with dual citizenship residing in Mexico were allowed to enter the country while the land border was closed to non-essential travelers, so they may have been vaccinated in a county other than the their and changed the vaccine count in these countries. communities.

El Paso health officials, for example, do not record how many people from Juárez have been vaccinated there because people are not required to submit home address documents to prove they live in El Paso.


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