Braving the 35-degree weather, thousands of residents started to line up in their vehicles at 9 p.m. Tuesday to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Cameron County Clinic, which started at 6 a.m. Wednesday in the Los Fresnos Fire Department.

With their blankets and snacks, thousands of residents inside their cars — sometimes as many as seven family members — were lined up in the middle of the night and hundreds more continued to arrive throughout the morning as officers turned them away.

“People started to line up at 9 p.m.,” a Los Fresnos police officer who was on site said. “The clinic ran out of places around 6 a.m.”

The 2,350 vaccines were administered to those who were eligible per Texas state guidelines.

“I understand a lot of people stayed here overnight,” Esmeralda Guajardo, Cameron County health administrator, said. “It is not the ideal situation that we’d liked, but we are trying to do the best that we can. A lot of people asked if we can do a type of scheduling system, but we’ve seen what happened with UTRGV. There’s so many people who will try to go in to the system and we will not be able to meet the demand. This is pretty much the quicker way to do it.”

Guajardo said the biggest issue right now is the lack of vaccines. She said she foresees having clinics like this one for the rest of the year.

“Obviously people can understand the situation. What we are really dealing with is the lack of vaccines. If we had vaccines, we would have this set up everywhere, but we don’t. That people have to wait in a long line, it’s just the nature of the beast when you don’t have enough. It seems like this is going to be the quickest way to get people out of here,” she said.

“I don’t know what the new administration at the federal level is going to do, whether they are going to start releasing more vaccines, honestly, I don’t know. But, at the rate it is going, this is going to keep us pretty busy. We are going to be trying to vaccinate a lot of people for a long while and there’s a lot of work involved in something like this.”

The county will host another clinic at 6 a.m. Friday at the Brownsville Sports Park. This time, attendees will have to get down from their cars to get the vaccines but accommodations will be available for those unable to walk.

Leticia Hernandez and Carmen Paez drove together from Brownsville to get in line at 11 p.m. They said they were both ready to get it and are the first ones in their immediate family to get the vaccines.

“We are doing it for our health,” Hernandez said. “To be able to overcome this pandemic so that the whole nation can be healthy.”

After receiving the vaccine, the two close friends had to wait 15 minutes for observation. They said they did not experience any symptoms and that the process by the county ran very smoothly.

When asked what their plans are now that they have the first dose of the vaccine, Paez said even though she feels a little bit calmer, she still will take all the safety measures she can until the pandemic is over.

“I am going to feel a little more calmed but at the same time I still am going to take all the safety measures until the pandemic is over,” she said.

“I want to be protected and also be able to protect the community.”

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com