EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Up to half a million Juarez residents could receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the next two weeks, Mayor Armando Cabada says.
In an interview in El Paso with Border Report, Cabada said private employers in Juarez and the Mexican federal government on Monday began vaccinating residents 18 to 39 years old. That is part of an effort to bring the Mexican border city’s vaccination rate closer to that of El Paso, Texas, and thus facilitate a prompt reopening of the border to non-essential land travel.
“After more than a year (of restrictions), I think it is necessary for our border community to go back to normal. We hope this happens. We are doing our part to support this,” Cabada said. The U.S., Mexico and Canada in March 2020 agreed to restrict all non-essential border travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions have been renewed monthly, now through July 21.
Several maquiladoras in Juarez on Monday set up vaccination stations to accommodate up to 50,000 manufacturing industry employees and family members. The subjects 18 to 39 years old received the first of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine.
Cabada said the Mexican federal government plans to send hundreds of thousands of additional COVID-19 vaccines to the city in the next few days. Also, El Paso County is sharing up to 50,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines with Juarez residents at the Tornillo, Texas port of entry.
“That would allow us to have vaccinated up to 60 percent of our population, which is the percentage the experts say is needed to achieve herd immunity,” he said.
Chihuahua state health officials last week said Juarez had surpassed the 30 percent COVID-19 vaccination rate, after lagging El Paso badly since vaccines became available. As of Monday, El Paso had fully vaccinated 66.9 percent of its population 12 years of age and older, and partially vaccinated 77.7 percent.
Both cities have felt the economic impact of the pandemic to different degrees. While most Juarez residents are told they’ll be turned back at the U.S. ports of entry if their travel to El Paso is for routine family visits or shopping, no one in Mexico is stopping Americans from driving to Juarez.
Several businesses that rely on Mexican shoppers are still closed along Stanton and South El Paso streets in Downtown El Paso; merchants in Juarez’s medical tourism areas told KTSM their foreign customer base is still not up to pre-pandemic levels.
The Juarez mayor hopes improved vaccination rates will bring about the full reopening of the border by July 21 or, in a worst-case scenario, see them renewed for the last time.
Freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report.