EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Health officials in Juarez say they have vaccinated 185,322 people against COVID-19 this week and expect to ramp up the number to half a million by Saturday.

Mass vaccination efforts are ongoing at six sites throughout the city, including an industrial park where maquiladoras are inoculating their workers, suppliers and family members, said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Health Department in Juarez.

“We have a good flow of people and no waiting. We expect to apply 500,000 vaccinations from now until Saturday,” he said, broadcasting live from the Juarez Autonomous University gym, where hundreds of people lined up to be inoculated.

The Mexican government is racing to protect as many people as possible against COVID-19 to strengthen its case with the United States for a prompt reopening of the border to non-essential land travel. The restrictions have been in place since March 2020 and have stymied tourism and shopping in Downtown El Paso and traditional tourist areas in Juarez just across the border.

The restrictions expire July 21 but could be renewed for another month.

Dr. Gumaro Barrios, an epidemiologist with the health department said the COVID-19 infection curve continues to decrease. On Wednesday, the entire state reported only 106 new cases and one death.

Chihuahua health officials said the vaccination of Mexican nationals at the U.S. port of entry at Tornillo, Texas, also continues. The effort led by El Paso County government started on July 6 and has resulted in 1,500 daily vaccinations of employees of nearby maquiladoras in the Zaragoza area of Juarez.

Earlier this week, Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada said he expects the ramped-up vaccinations to raise the city’s COVID-19 immunization rate from 30 percent to 60 percent in the next two weeks. He says that will get Juarez closer to El Paso’s 67 percent full vaccination rate and bring about so-called herd immunity against the disease.

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