Learning curve: Mayor rates city’s first vaccine clinic

Brownsville’s inaugural COVID-19 vaccine clinic was generally a success even though some things could have gone better.

That’s according to Mayor Trey Mendez, who noted that more than 2,000 people were vaccinated on Jan. 15 at the Brownsville Sports Park.

“It went well,” he said. “A lot of people got vaccinated. You know, we learned some things from the process that we can certainly improve for next time, and we will. But it’s a learning curve for everybody. We’re just glad that we got 2,000 and plus vaccines in arms.”

(PHOTO GALLERY: Brownsville Vaccination Clinic)

Among the changes he’d like to see for next time, whenever that happens to be, is some type of vaccine pre-registration process in place — online if possible — and getting information about vaccine vouchers out to the public earlier.

“We know that not everybody has access to internet, so those people will be able to register either in person or over the phone,” Mendez said. “We’re working on that system. More than anything else, just getting the information out there a couple of days ahead.”

The city wants its next Sports Park clinic to be drive-through so people don’t have to get out of their cars and go inside, since it’s faster and more efficient. Cameron County Public Health, which receives the vaccine doses meted out by the state and handles the logistics of distributing them, nixed a planned drive-through on Jan. 15 in Brownsville due to high winds.

Unlike vaccination clinics held earlier in Harlingen and Los Fresnos, vouchers for the Jan. 15 clinic were handed out handed out on Jan. 13, though the announcement that that was going to happen came relatively late.

“It could have been handled better, but the city had to make a decision to try and eliminate people waiting in line and being overnight, especially older folks,” Mendez said. “We didn’t want that. We distributed vouchers on Wednesday, but we had people show up on Tuesday that wanted to start camping out. It just shows the need, how big the need is and how scared people are in general.”

Noting “some glitches” between the county and the city — Mendez believes they’ve been worked through — he said it’s tough to coordinate and plan when the city has little advance warning about when and how many doses will arrive. The county is pretty much in the same boat, according to Public Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo, who said her department didn’t learn that an additional 1,000 doses were being sent for Harlingen’s Jan. 7 clinic until the clinic was already underway and vaccinating people.

Mendez said the city would have preferred to prioritize people 65 and older for receiving the vaccine at this stage, but was told by the county that per state mandate those 18 and older with one or more qualifying health conditions are also eligible. This describes much of Brownsville’s population, exacerbating the issue of vaccine demand far exceeding supply.

“Seventy percent of our population has some sort of chronic illness unfortunately, “Mendez said. “That’s something that we’re working to reduce, always, but for now it’s a reality and we have to deal with it, especially in a situation like this.”

He encouraged residents to contact their health care providers, some of whom have registered to be able to deliver the vaccine, and watch the city’s website for news on vaccination clinics.

“I just want people to know the city of Brownsville is working hard to get the vaccines down here,” Mendez said. “We understand that there’s a lot of demand and we’re working as quickly as we can to get doses and inform residents.”


City of Brownsville: www.cob.us

Cameron County: www.cameroncounty.us