Home Expat Blogs Driving on the Edge Getting a COVID-19 Booster Shot Can Be a Challenge in Mexico

Getting a COVID-19 Booster Shot Can Be a Challenge in Mexico

Hospital vaccinations sign
Credit: Thinkstock

We’ve been living in tough times for about two years now. There’s no end in sight as new variants of the pandemic sprout every few months. Vaccination is the key for most of us, but there are no guarantees. We learned that getting a COVID-19 booster shot can be a challenge in Mexico, especially if you want a specific vaccine brand.

Here in San Miguel de Allende, as I assume was the case in most other areas of Mexico, the vaccine was distributed to groups by age on given days, starting with those 60 plus. In March and April, I stood in line for seven hours each time to get the Pfizer version. In each case it was an ordeal.

I was dismayed when a booster was announced, and even more when I heard that it would be from AstraZeneca. We had heard of problems for those who’d already had that version. We decided to make a run for the border and get the booster by walking into any pharmacy in the U.S. There we would have a choice.

A number of local people are offering border runs. The one we had as a reference would take us for US$385 each to Brownsville, Texas. Using a six passenger Toyota Sienna, he would also provide snacks and water en route. Once there, he would take us to the pharmacy, ensure we all got the shot, and ferry us around for shopping as well. If it was a little pricey, it still sounded good because we could get either the Pfizer or the Moderna booster, both unavailable in Mexico. It was suggested that the run to the border would take about eight-and-a-half hours.

The driver was an expert and the scenery was picturesque, but we had not counted on a police road block half way along that cost us a two hour wait as we went. This was so they could simply glance into the vehicle and then wave us on. We stopped for a roadside snack of small cheese enchiladas, four to a pack for 12 pesos. This was a community effort with a group kitchen, division of labor, the men making the sale at the highway stop.

At the border crossing at Brownsville, there were four possible crossings. By making a call, the driver determined which one had the shortest wait time and that’s where we settled in. We were there for two and a half hours. The border guards checked nothing in the car, merely glanced at the passports, and waved us through.

By that time, we had been in the car for nearly fourteen hours. The problem was this was on January 3, and the border was crowded with people who had traveled home to Mexico for the holidays, but lived in the U.S. None of us had thought of this, and the driver had not been doing this run long enough to have seen it before.

By then it was too late to do any shopping, so we headed for a 24-hour pharmacy to get the shot. But the nurse on duty had left for the day by then, and no more shots were being administered. We made an appointment for the next morning, which of course, delayed our departure, which had originally been planned for 7 a.m. By the time we finished with paperwork and other details, it was nearly 11 in the morning by the time we got back on the road. The only shopping was for some essentials in the pharmacy.

We were back home around 9 p.m. It would be an exaggeration to suggest that we were all near death by that time, but it did seem too much like a complete ordeal. We were too stiff to walk easily after that much time in the car.

Are we happy we did it? Yes, in a muted sort of way. We did get the booster, and we got the variety we wanted. We saw a part of Mexico we hadn’t seen before. It was a mixture of poor communities and huge agricultural tracts that comprised the breadbasket of Mexico. We bought a few things in the pharmacy that we can’t easily find here in San Miguel.

Would I do it again? I hope I won’t be faced with that choice. If I am, I might fly if I can’t get the favored vaccine choice here. It’s hard to say. Sometimes there are just no good choices.


  1. Thanks for the perspective. I started with the Astra Zeneca vaccine in the Guadalajara area in early 2021 because the “American” vaccines were not available here. It worked fine for me, and I received the second shot without problems. I received the third AZ dose in late December without problems. My extended family with in-laws stretches from the UK to the USA to Mexico. All of us over 12 are fully vaccinated with AZ or Pfizer or Moderna or J&J, and nobody has had any adverse reactions or serious side effects.

    There are anecdotes about the effectiveness and side effects of all COVID vaccines. Details about each vaccine are available from the World Health Organization at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/covid-19-vaccines/advice. As of 12 January 2022, WHO has evaluated that the following vaccines against COVID-19 have met the necessary criteria for safety and efficacy:
    AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine
    Johnson and Johnson

  2. Such a shame to have spent so much time and money when the AstraZeneca booster was free and, as recent research has demonstrated, extremely effective.

  3. I got my booster in La Paz. I bicycled over to the university where they were being dispensed. The ENTIRE process took maybe 25-30 minutes, once I was there–and cost NOTHING.

    When in Rome ….


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