Intense vaccination efforts have proved successful in Hidalgo County in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Just over 25% of the almost 870,000 people who live there have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Dr. Ivan Melendez is health authority for the county. He says locals have proved wrong early media reports that Latinos would largely be hesitant to get vaccinated.
“The media had published many reports that about 40% of Latinos, which composes about 85% of our population down here, were hesitant to be vaccinated. … We didn’t find that to be the case,” Melendez said. “The demand has always exceeded the supply.”
Hidalgo County’s strategy has been to get shots into the arms of people within five days of receiving a shipment of vaccine. The result, Melendez says, has been a dramatic drop in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. He also says the county’s partnership with the private sector has made the rollout possible.
Despite the growing number of vaccinated people in his area, he says the Easter holiday is not a time for anyone to let their guard down against COVID-19. The virus can still spread when people gather because of variants and, especially, because there are still so many people who haven’t yet been vaccinated.
“We’re so close that it’s not quite time yet to let off the gas. But certainly we’re in a much better spot this Easter than we were this past Christmas,” he said.
This story has been updated to clarify the population of Hidalgo County, rather than population estimate of that county plus surrounding counties in the Rio Grande Valley. The percentage of vaccinated people was adjusted to reflect that change as well.