UPDATE, July 6: On Tuesday, the maquiladora vaccination effort was underway at the Tornillo port of entry. El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told ABC-7 that almost 1,500 shots had been administered to Juarez factory workers on the first day of the bi-national program.
As many as 200 maquiladoras are participating in the cross-border vaccination effort aimed at getting the Borderland closer to herd immunity. The companies are paying for the costs of the vaccine program.
The goal of vaccinating 50,000 Juarez workers comes in the hopes of quickening the lifting of pandemic border travel restrictions.
"We have to do absolutely everything possible to ensure that we achieve regional herd immunity so that there is no longer any reason why our borders should remain closed," said El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
ORIGINAL REPORT, July 5: TORNILLO, Texas-- In an effort to boost herd immunity against Covid-19, El Paso County will now be offering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to Juarez residents beginning Tuesday. The effort is a partnership between the county and the Mexican Consulate, and the vaccines will come from surplus supply that the county has.
"I believe with all my heart that we need to have regional herd immunity. I can tell you that if we don't reach and help them, our herd immunity will drop significantly when we open the bridges," El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has given the green-light for the initiative starting Tuesday, meaning four buses will be crossing the Tornillo port of entry every 20 minutes bringing 150 maquiladora workers to receive their vaccine.
The agreement required Ciudad Juarez to pay El Paso upfront for the vaccine; the cost for the vaccine and all services amounts to $500,000.
“They are covering every single penny of the cost. That includes UMC (University Medical Center), that includes Emergency fire services with Chief (Roger) Esparza, so there is no cost to the taxpayer. We were not going to move until they made their deposit, so now they made their deposit and we are ready to move forward,” Samaniego said.
The effort will run throughout the week at the port of entry - and the vaccines will help vaccinate a vulnerable portion of the population.
“We're doing 1,500 a day for a total of 50,000. Our first phase is 30,000 and if everything works out, then we'll go into the next phase - which will be 20,000 more,“ Samaniego said.
With the U.S.-Mexico border slated to continue to be closed for another month, Samaniego sees this time as an opportunity to get ahead on the goal of herd immunity.
"So it's gonna be exciting, because more than anything, the message is we need to take care of (each other) because we're in one region. We always talk about it - and now we're going to do something. That's the way it should have been from day one,“ Samaniego said.