COMMENTARY: Partnerships critical to vaccinating Rio Grande Valley residents

By DR. ELENA MARIN, Special to the VMS

Earlier this year, the Rio Grande Valley was reported to have one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state. Some residents expressed initial hesitancy to receive the vaccine. This reluctance was troubling as data has shown that Hispanic communities are impacted by COVID-19 at higher rates, with increased risks of hospitalizations and deaths among those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. But on the ground, education and vaccine promotion in underserved communities has gone a long way in making people feel informed, more prepared and comfortable in choosing to receive the vaccine.

As of May 14, over half a million people in the RGV have now been fully vaccinated, which represents 38 percent of the total population in the region and over 50 percent have had partial immunization. There is still much work to do. With Texas opening up vaccines to those individuals twelve and older we can improve even further as long as we keep the momentum going and the partnerships working.

The region has come together with innumerable creative partnerships. One example is Brownsville’s mobile integrated health unit partnership with its Fire Department. This van travels throughout the city and surrounding areas vaccinating homebound residents in their homes. Another example is how Su Clinica, a federally qualified Health Center, worked with patients and their health care plans to improve vaccination rates. Su Clinica worked with several managed care organizations including Molina Healthcare of Texas. Molina staff was activated, engaged and ready to support Su Clinica’s vaccination efforts.

Having the right partnerships, resources, education, and messaging has made all the difference in the world in how quickly our region was able to respond. Our health care professionals, counties, school districts, universities, municipalities, hospitals, pharmacies, corporations and so many others have been key in aligning resources to combat this devastating pandemic. It is vital to continue this united push forward to keep our families, friends and neighbors safe.

Please help us honor and thank all those who have worked so tirelessly to help us emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.

Dr. Elena Marin is the CEO of Su Clinica.