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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The state of Chihuahua is in the middle of a massive COVID-19 vaccination effort that local officials hope strengthens the case for the U.S. and Mexico to consider reopening the border to tourists and shoppers.

Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said 953,670 vaccines have been administered as of Monday to healthcare workers, people over 60, educators and pregnant women in the state. A new round of vaccinations began Monday targeting people 50 to 59 years old.

House members who represent border states last Friday sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to include vaccination rates in their communities as one of the parameters to decide when to roll back non-essential land travel restrictions in effect between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada since March 2020.

“We urge the administration to work with border communities, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services on identifying the vaccination rate in American communities that would result in the easing of travel restrictions at our land ports and the reopening of the ports to our neighbors on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border,” the lawmakers wrote.

El Paso County as of Tuesday had administered at least one coronavirus vaccine to 69.3 of its residents 12 and older and fully vaccinated 55.2 percent of its population.

Vaccination rates in Mexico have tripled in the last two months, going from 5.4 percent of the adult population on March 31 to 17.1 percent as of May 31, according to Ministry of Health data.

Texas private industry leaders are also citing the rising vaccination rates and falling COVID-19 positivity rates in El Paso and Juarez in asking for an end to the restrictions.

“Given the high number of fully vaccinated Americans and the increasing number of Mexican nationals being vaccinated, it’s unlikely that an outbreak of COVID-19 would reoccur. It’s now time for El Paso and Juarez communities to resume their sense of normalcy,” the El Paso Trade and Manufacturing Council said in a statement urging Biden to lift the restrictions.

While many American citizens and legal permanent residents continue to visit relatives in Mexico and are allowed re-entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been turning back foreign residents whose travel purpose is non-essential. That includes shopping, tourism and family visits.

Merchants in El Paso and other American border cities have repeatedly said the restrictions have taken away their Mexican customers and cut their sales by more than half.

“It’s now time for the U.S. government to allow the southern border to prosper by lifting the restrictions that have hampered the economic stability of the largest cross-border community. It’s time for Washington, D.C., to listen to what people from this region want to see,” the trade and manufacturing council said.

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