In early January, I traveled from the suburbs of Austin to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) as a student researcher to test an app that would expand the outreach of healthcare. Despite being in the same state, the RGV’s distinctive culture seemed a world away. I journaled my observations and interactions in the town, and when I returned home, I learned more about trends I noticed through online research and interviews. In this mini-ethnography, I’ve published my recollections and findings on the social determinants of public health on the Texas-Mexico border region.
Eleven months: after the first SARS-CoV-2 case in December 2019, pharmaceutical research and development produced an effective vaccine in November 2020. The speed of this timeline is unmatched in human history, as typically, vaccines take more than a decade to develop. Yet, science is only the first link of the public health chain. The next steps, comprising equitable distribution and accessibility, are equally important. Unfortunately, data from 23 states show that there are racial disparities in vaccine distributions. While antibodies protect cells biologically, effective policies protect people socially; vaccination equity needs to be at the forefront of public health efforts.