MEXICO CITY (AP) — San Diego County and private businesses have donated 10,000 coronavirus vaccine doses for workers at U.S.-owned border assembly plants in Tijuana known as maquiladoras, Mexico’s top diplomat said Tuesday.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the program is aimed at helping equalize vaccination rates at closely connected points along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This is the first cross-border agreement we have had. This is surely going to grow a lot,” Ebrard said. “We plan to replicate this all along the border.”
“The purpose is to try to equalize vaccination rates along the northern border, above all in the cities that have a high degree of interconnection, like San Diego and Tijuana,” he said.
The vaccines are being administered by medical personnel from the University of California, San Diego, at the San Ysidro border crossing. The program started Monday with about 150 to 200 shots administered per hour, and will cover workers at six plants over the space of seven days.
Mexico has had a shortage of coronavirus vaccines, and so far has received only about 34.2 million doses for a population of 126 million. Since most vaccines require two doses, Mexico has only vaccinated about 15% of its population so far.
Maquiladora workers have complained they are particularly vulnerable because they claim the economically vital plants were slow to shut down during virus surges, and because in many cases they have to work in closed spaces or ride company buses to work.
Plant operators say they have taken measures to help employees avoid infection, including changing work spaces and shifts.
Luis Manuel Hernández González, president of the Index maquiladora industry council, said, “Now with the application of vaccines for workers, we can begin reactivating in a much safer way.”