McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday said that the number of DHS employees who have received COVID-19 vaccines has increased significantly from just two months ago. This includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at an overcrowded processing facility in South Texas that has come under fire for safety protocols.
Majorkas said over 58,000 DHS “mission-critical” employees, up from just 5,074 employees who had been vaccinated against coronavirus at the start of February, under Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce (Operation VOW). This includes nearly 800 front-line border officers vaccinated last month in four events held in El Paso, New Mexico, Laredo and Donna, Texas, where agents have been processing families and unaccompanied minor migrants in a crowded tent facility.
Working with the Veterans Administration Medical Centers, there are now 163 centers participating to give vaccines to DHS officials, as of April 5, Mayorkas said in a statement.
“There is no higher priority than the health and safety of our workforce,” Mayorkas said. “I am proud of the incredible progress that Operation VOW has made in just two months, thanks to the dedication of the DHS and VHA personnel leading this effort. DHS is committed to protecting our employees by ensuring they have access to the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”
He said an emphasis has been made to vaccinate “frontline and public-facing employees” on the Southwest border. This included:
- One hundred and seventy-five CBP officers and employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on March 16 at the migrant processing facility where hundreds of families and unaccompanied minors are being held in Donna, Texas.
- On March 20, there were nearly 300 DHS employees who got the Moderna vaccine in El Paso.
- On March 23, in Laredo, Texas, 100 DHS employees received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Laredo International Airport to help those CBP officers working at the Laredo Ports of Entry.
- And 218 DHS employees got the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine on March 26 in conjunction with an event co-hosted by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, U.S. Secret Service and CBP campus in Artesia, New Mexico.
“It’s a game changer having vaccinated students. It will greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread and allow more flexibility in our COVID-19 protective posture and protocols,” FLETC Artesia Site Director Terry Todd said.
DHS had come under fire from lawmakers — including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — for failing to vaccinate border officers in South Texas where there is a current influx of hundreds of families and unaccompanied migrant youth each day crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.