SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The goal was to bring thousands of maquiladora workers from Mexico onto U.S. territory to give them COVID-19 vaccinations, but getting them north of the border turned out to be quite an undertaking.

The effort involved local, state and federal agencies from both countries, not to mention a health care provider willing to set up a makeshift clinic at the border beneath rows of concertina wire, cameras and fencing.

UC San Diego Health stepped up and agreed to provide the necessary personnel and materials.

The County of San Diego worked with the state of California to funnel “excess” Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the program.

“It’s the right thing to do,” San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said when the program launched in late May.

American companies that employed the workers agreed to pay for the costs with U.S. Customs and Border Protection providing the space and supervision for the operation just inside U.S. territory at Ped West, one of two pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Every other day, 1,500 workers were bused to the border where they patiently waited their turns.

This went on for several weeks until the program ended last Friday.

“Thinking outside the box is necessary to overcome difficult challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Carlos González Gutiérrez, Mexico’s Consul General in San Diego.

González Gutiérrez is regarded as one of the architects who engineered the cross-border effort, which vaccinated more than 24,000 workers.

The program is now being emulated in other border regions including El Paso-Juarez in Texas and Nogales-Agua Prieta in Arizona.

Similar work is also taking place along the northern border between Canada and North Dakota, where truckers from Manitoba are getting vaccinated.

The program between San Diego and Tijuana ended due in part to efforts by the Mexican government to vaccinate more of its residents, including all maquiladora workers, using donated vaccines from the United States.

So far, in the state of Baja California, more than 1.75 million people have been vaccinated, including many in the city of Tijuana.

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