Dismayed by the slow rollout of Covid-19 injections at home, middle-class Mexicans are increasingly heading to the United States as loose inoculation policies in some states fuel vaccine tourism.
“It’s common knowledge that you can get vaccinated in different places,” said Julia Reyes, a researcher who traveled from Mexico to Dallas this week to get her first vaccine and asked not to use her real name.
“They are not asking for anything because the policy is ‘we want everyone here to get vaccinated’.”
Via WhatsApp groups or word of mouth, Mexicans with the ability to travel in no time exchange advice and packing planes, taking advantage of their proximity to a country with an abundant supply of vaccines and where doses to some locations – including the Texas state border – are not used.
Try Las Vegas, some advise – some hotels offer a free night for people traveling to get their shots. Pretend you have a health problem like diabetes or high blood pressure, if someone asks, others recommend it. If the vaccines run out by 5:00 p.m., come back the next day at 7:00 a.m. you can show your mexican driver’s license, other tips.
“I had to become a vaccine detective,” said a university professor, who asked not to be identified. Keen not to skip the line, she only made it to the United States after vaccinations for her age group had been cleared – information she discovered by checking sites daily. Web.
“My decision is based on a very clear assessment of the Mexican vaccination process – for people my age it could take months – they don’t even vaccinate all healthcare workers,” she said.
Mexico has stepped up its vaccine distribution, reaching a record of nearly 554,000 doses in a single day this week, but Marcelo Ebrard, Minister of Foreign Affairs, admitted that the use of injections of foreign products had caused “delays and difficulties”.
Since becoming the first Latin American country to start immunizing on Christmas Eve last year, Mexico has administered more than 13 million doses, mostly to frontline health workers, to over 60 years old and some teachers. The government insists that everyone over 60 will have received at least one dose by the end of the month and that vaccinations for teachers and those over 50 will begin soon.
On the other hand, the we, which has administered more than 200 million vaccines, is quickly opening vaccine eligibility. All states are currently vaccinating anyone 16 years of age or older or have promised to do so soon. Texas alone administered over 15 million shots.
In some places, supply exceeds demand, with gaps between the number of vaccines delivered and the number administered, especially in the south.
Data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that several states, especially in the southeast of the country, have more than 30 percent of their vaccines unused. In Texas, just under a quarter of the vaccines distributed have not yet been used.
Part of the reason appears to be a reluctance to get vaccinated, which is particularly strong among rural Republicans. A poll by the health think tank, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), found that this group is most likely to say they definitely won’t get a vaccine.
Texas is one of the places where Mexicans who fear a long wait at home take advantage. There are no residency requirements for vaccinations in the state, with 20 more, according to KFF.
“The plane here was packed,” said Reyes, who spotted someone she had seen on board at Walmart where she was being vaccinated. Monterrey Football Club, known as Rayados, a football team based in northern Mexico, have reportedly flocked to Dallas in recent days to get the hit.
“They [the medical staff] We continued to thank each other for the vaccine, ”said the professor, who was vaccinated at a huge vaccination center in another US state, Utah.
Alicia, another Mexican who also asked not to give her real name, said she signed up for “tons of accounts” before going to Texas. As soon as the CVS Pharmacy announced that the vaccinations were open, she jumped.
Julien de Bellaigue, a French restaurateur in Mexico City, also traveled to Texas this week for his first snap. “In Mexico, if I had to wait my turn – I’m 40 – I would wait until spring 2022. In France, I might be eligible in the fall, but I’m here. I see a lot of people all day because of my job and every day I fall asleep saying, ‘I hope I didn’t get it,’ ”he said.
A friend of his even started a business, he said, charging $ 180 to get vaccine appointments for people coming from Mexico.
The Texas Department of Health said the state’s distribution program was “for people who live, work or spend a significant amount of time in Texas.”
Last week, 99.4% of those vaccinated in Texas were from within the state, officials said, compared with 0.56% from out of state and 0.04% from another country. “The data shows this is not a major problem,” the ministry said.
“The need for Mexicans to go to the United States is 100%, it is not for fun,” said Alicia, who has a health condition that puts her at high risk for Covid. Because of this, she could not take viral vector vaccines and was concerned that the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine might not be available.
She is now fully vaccinated with both doses of Pfizer. She had doubts: “Some people have said that we are abusing the American government and we are, it is true.”
But Reyes said, “I think it’s an amazing policy – they really care and want everyone who crosses their country to get vaccinated, whether they are illegal immigrants or tourists. “
The Mexican government has a political imperative to speed up its own immunization program: midterm elections are held in June and the president Andrés Manuel López Obrador hopes to tighten his grip on Congress and increase the number of states ruled by his party.
According to a recent poll, 67 percent of Mexicans who had previously been vaccinated, or who had a parent who had, approved of the president, 8 points more than among the unvaccinated.
In a country where an estimate eight out of 10 Covid deaths were among those with little or no education, vaccine tourism only deepens the yawning gap between rich and poor.
“Unfortunately, this exacerbates the inequalities perpetuated by Covid,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. “The elites can buy a plane ticket and get the picture, but the people who need it even more – because they can’t stay home and telecommute – can’t.
Additional reporting by Justin Jacobs