SAN DIEGO (AP) — Scores of Mexican adolescents were bused to California on Thursday to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as efforts get underway across Mexico to get shots in the arms of teens.

Mexico has refused to vacinate children between the ages of 12 and 17, partly because its government focuses more on vulnerable older adults. Mexico’s minors account for one third of its total population. There is not enough vaccine stock. Mexico is currently preparing to begin vaccinating teens aged 15-17 this month.

San Diego County, along with a San Diego group, stepped up to help the neighbor.

San Diego is hosting a pilot program that will allow 450 teens aged 12-17 to have shots before December ends. Mexican social services organizations selected the Tijuana teens, which included those working with children from deported parents.

On Thursday, 150 Tijuana children were bused from Tijuana to San Diego where they received the Pfizer vaccine by county nurses.

Leslie Flores was among them.

“Because this way I can protect myself and my family,” Leslie said.

The doses were provided by the county. They will be back in three weeks to receive a second dose.

All of the adolescents have a U.S. visa or passport, but they were unable to come to the United States before now to get the vaccine because they did not have an adult able to cross the border with them, said Carlos González Gutiérrez, the Mexican consul in San Diego.

Adrian Medina Amarillas, Baja California’s secretary of health, praised the effort.

“Baja California is experiencing a third wave” of infections, he said. “There is no doubt that this will help.”

Officials will then decide whether the program should be maintained.

Many parents have sued the Mexican government in Mexico to get the vaccine for their children. Overall, about 84% of Mexico’s adult population has had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Mexican officials consider this another step in ensuring that Mexico’s border is open for business. This comes just two weeks after the United States reopened all of its borders. The 18-month shutdown of tourists and shoppers decimated border businesses.

About 80% have had at least one dose in San Diego County, and Baja California.

Last month, more than 1000 children from Mexico’s border state of Coahuila were bused across the Texas border to Eagle Pass. Here they received their first dose of Pfizer vaccine. Maquiladoras are border-assembler workers’ children, between the ages of 12 and 17.

Over 26,000 Maquiladora Workers in Baja California, were vaccinated in San Diego at the San Ysidro border crossing.


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