Photo courtesy UTEP
The University of Texas at El Paso’s COVID-19 vaccination program may soon serve as a model for immunization efforts in Mexico’s largest state.
“We are happy to share with our friends in the state of Chihuahua what we have learned in setting up a vaccination program that is running well,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson. “UTEP serves a binational region crossing three states in two countries. This international collaboration is another way we can positively impact the region we call home.”
A delegation of health care professionals and private industry leaders from the State of Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, toured UTEP’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Monday.
The visit gave them firsthand insight into the processes and strategies that have allowed UTEP to operate its vaccination clinic with a high level of efficiency after creating the program from scratch.
Eduardo Fernández, Secretary of Health for the State of Chihuahua, was among those who took part in Monday’s tour. The aim of the visit was to replicate the University’s model in Juárez and other parts of Chihuahua as the Mexican state seeks to improve its own recently launched vaccination program.
“Ciudad Juárez and El Paso are one community, so we have to work together in this process,” Fernández said. “Proper management of a vaccination program requires a great deal of order so as not to waste the vaccine, to monitor the people who’ve been vaccinated and address any possible side effects. All of this requires a very high level of organization, and it is evident that UTEP’s vaccination clinic is very well organized and there is a great process in place.”
In addition to Secretary Fernández, the delegation from Mexico included Dr. Enrique Rodriguez, medical director of Hospital Angeles, a private hospital in Juárez; Luis Alberto Barrio, president of FECHAC, a foundation supported by the state’s business community that provides grants to nonprofit organizations and public institutions; and Francisco Santini, president of the Chihuahua chapter of Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, a private industry network.
To date, UTEP has immunized 3,478 people with either one or two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Students and faculty from the School of Pharmacy, the School of Nursing and the College of Health Sciences and other University staff run the clinics and administer the vaccines. Software written by UTEP staff has automated the process of registration, scheduling, reporting and follow-up.
Since August, UTEP has also operated a proactive COVID-19 testing program that returns results in approximately five hours and has helped suppress disease on the campus.
The MAVEN Project, a public health nonprofit based in California that supports primary care providers in delivering comprehensive care to patients across the country, has provided invaluable guidance for UTEP’s testing and vaccination clinics.
The University was approved as a COVID-19 vaccine provider by the Texas Department of State Health Services in early January and began administering the vaccine to eligible students, faculty and staff January 22 in the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Building.
Eligible faculty, staff and students were notified to schedule an appointment, and the program expanded to include eligible individuals among UTEP’s retirees and faculty emeriti, and from El Paso Community College and several Region 19 school districts. UTEP is now administering second doses of the vaccine to those who received their first dose at UTEP.
Representatives of health care agencies from the State of Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez learned UTEP’s vaccination clinic through a webinar organized by the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) Foundation.
After learning more about the vaccination clinic, they expressed an interest in touring the facility to deepen their understanding of the protocols, logistics and best practices of the University’s vaccination program.