EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A senior El Paso County official believes there is a way to reinvigorate companies that go beyond 16 months of travel restrictions at the border, while ensuring the immunity of the COVID-19 herd on both sides: let them all in.
“I think the only way to do that is to open the border. Let us provide the resources (and) to everyone who comes here. We don’t have to ask any questions, ”County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said.
El Paso has already spent thousands of COVID-19 vaccines assigned to residents in Juárez. First, it established a pilot program near the port of entry of Ysleta to vaccinate hundreds of Mexican truckers transporting parts and goods assembled in Juárez on behalf of American companies. The county also provided 34,000 shots for Mexican maquiladora workers at the port of entry in Tornillo, Texas.
“Thirty-four thousand is a large humanitarian number, but not a large number in the context of (achieving) the immunity of the herd. If they (federal officials of the United States) give us the opportunity to do the centers as we did at the beginning of our situation, I think we will do very well, “Samaniego said.
Samaniego said El Paso is leading the state in COVID-19 vaccination rates thanks to local associations and outreach efforts to raise awareness of free vaccines and dispel myths about dangerous side effects.
As of Wednesday, 71.3% of county residents over the age of 12 were fully vaccinated, while 84% had received at least one dose.
The Department of Homeland Security imposed border travel restrictions in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world. DHS extended the restrictions until Aug. 21 citing a rise in cases and hospitalizations and the rapid spread of the new Delta variant.
Earlier this month, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the restrictions are likely to remain in place this month.
At the Juárez border, the vaccination rate is difficult to verify. Several officials in the city of Juarez and the state of Chihuahua say that up to 90% of the population has been vaccinated so far. The first vaccines only arrived last spring.
Juárez’s vaccination rate is questioned
Samaniego said he is “suspicious” of Juarez’s claims, given the investment of time, resources and outreach that El Paso needed to reach the current 84% partial vaccination rate.
“We have one of the most sophisticated logistics systems (in El Paso County). We were making 20,000 (vaccines) a day. Unless (Juarez) does it at this level (I don’t know if they will be able to do it), I just know it took us many months to get to this point, “Samaniego said.” I think it’s best to tell the truth. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I can tell you that it would be very difficult to get the herd’s immunity at that speed.”
Uncertainty about Juarez’s actual vaccination rate is one more reason to allow Mexican residents to cross the border and vaccinate them, he said.
Although El Paso County collects comprehensive data from hospitals, clinics, professionals and works closely with the Texas Department of Public Health Services, the Mexican federal government controls the distribution of vaccines and the registration of documents.
Business leaders such as Thor Salayandia, chairman of Juarez’s Business Council, said he believes between 80% and 90% of Juarez’s adults have received shots of COVID-19.
“(The figures) are true. It can be seen every time we get vaccinated; the centers are full. More and more people are being vaccinated, ”he said. “Of course, some people don’t want to get vaccinated because it’s not mandatory.”
On Wednesday, a border report and a KTSM crew visited downtown Juarez and the Galeana and Chaveña neighborhoods to ask residents if they were vaccinated. Several said no.
“I did not receive COVID-19. I want to get a shot, but I don’t know where to go, ”said Jose Macario Martinez, a soft drink vendor who works behind the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.“ They should have a vaccination center in the neighborhoods because a lot people don’t want to travel too far. “
Horacio, a welder from the Chaveña neighborhood, said he was out of town during the last act of mass vaccination. I missed previous events because I didn’t know what was going on.
Ofelia Garcia said she is completely vaccinated, but her 72-year-old brother and 47-year-old nephew are not.
“He told no one that my brother and nephew did not have them (identification). They require too many things and some people are creating panic among those who are not vaccinated, “said Chaveña’s neighbor.” You have to register online and a lot of people don’t have internet. Some don’t read or write and it’s complicated for them. They must bring (the vaccines) to the colonies and that (health) workers help people “.