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Border & Immigration

County Takes Regional Approach To Vaccinations For Border Crossers

Matt Hoffman
Patients waiting in line for a COVID-19 vaccine outside a vaccination super station in Chula Vista, Calif. Feb. 5, 2021.

San Diego County is the workplace for people from both sides of the border. So, when it comes to vaccinations, the County isn’t worrying about citizenship.

Curious how the vaccine rollout is going in San Diego County? KPBS is tracking the progress.

“Individuals that live or work in San Diego County, if there are any individuals that live in Tijuana, that cross over to work in many of our manufacturing plants, food processing plants, those individuals should be vaccinated because they’re intermixing with our San Diegans,” Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten told KPBS. “The virus doesn’t know who’s from Tijuana, La Jolla, or North County or East County."


Advocates for the county’s approach believe that like housing, vaccines are a shared resource for the region.

"We have to tell the story and the whole relationship beyond just 'oh gosh, Mexican citizens are coming over to get the vaccine,'" said Nancy Maldonado, the president of the Chicano Federation. “The truth is this is a binational megaregion and it’s one of the busiest land ports in the country and we depend on each other for a lot of things, including housing and including healthcare.”

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Maldonado points out that Tijuana has long been a place where Americans have come to receive health care.

“The reality is that for years, U.S. citizens have gone to Mexico and Tijuana for low-cost care, whether it’s dentistry, plastic surgery, medical care in general, because they don’t have health insurance, because they can’t afford the cost of healthcare here in the U.S. and they have taxed their healthcare system for years,” she said.


While the county is only asking for proof if you live or work in San Diego to be eligible for the vaccine, you still have to be in one of the groups currently being vaccinated to qualify.

Carlos González Gutiérrez, the Consul General of México in San Diego, thinks this policy helps many essential workers, who live in San Diego without official documentation. And to him, it makes the strong case that these essential workers should be given legal status.

Video: County Takes Regional Approach To Cross-Border Vaccinations

“If you’re an essential worker, you should not be undocumented. I think COVID-19 has shown how much this community, this society as a whole depends on foreign workers, a significant portion of whom are undocumented,” Gutiérrez said.

Mexico has exhausted its current supply of the first dose of the vaccine but is expecting more in the middle of the month.

The Mexican consulate has already acted as a successful COVID-19 testing site in San Diego, and Gutiérrez hopes that it will be chosen to be a vaccine distribution site in the coming weeks.

County Takes Regional Approach To Vaccinations For Border Crossers
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.