Despite High Vaccination Rate, El Paso Misses The Most Vulnerable

The county has vaccinated 10% of residents, but the online registration system favors wealthier, internet-savvy English speakers.

By Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonJanuary 28, 2021 12:51 pm,

El Paso County is the first urban county in Texas to vaccinate 10% of residents with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While that is an achievement, El Paso Matters CEO and editor, Bob Moore, says it doesn’t tell the whole story about what El Pasoans are up against with the coroanvirus. He says the city “traded efficiency for equity” with its online vaccination appointment program, which has mainly benefited wealthier English speakers with internet access.

“There’s a lot of concern that it’s missing some of the most vulnerable,” Moore told Texas Standard. “Basically, if you don’t have transportation, if you’re not web savvy, and most importantly, if you don’t speak English, it’s really hard to get signed up on these vaccine lists.”

Two entities are coordinating vaccinations in El Paso, each with a slightly different approach. The city has an ongoing online waitlist of about 160,000 people, Moore says. But it has only about 5,000 doses to give each week. The county hospital, University Medical Center of El Paso, has tried a “pop-up” style approach, announcing batches of new appointments at once, online. But Moore says its website can’t handle the influx of requests.

“Much like going for the hot concert ticket or sporting ticket, everybody hammers the website all at once. And UMC does not have the infrastructure that Ticketmaster does. So it kind of crashes the website and makes it difficult to get through,” Moore said.

For now, the city and county are also hamstrung by the number of vaccine doses the state gives them. At the current rate, Moore says it will take El Paso two years to reach herd immunity, in which about 70% of people are vaccinated.

The only thing that would change that are more vaccine doses.

“We need more vaccines coming through, just like everywhere else in Texas. That’s the ultimate answer,” he said.

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