The Texas State Department of Health Services’ fall COVID-19 vaccination campaign stopped in East Texas this weekend.

The campaign focuses on combating COVID-19 by encouraging people to get vaccinated and to get their booster shots. Department officials kicked off the clinic Friday at a Walmart in Tyler.

People interested in getting vaccinated could show up to the DSHS’s tent at the Walmart’s parking lot, receive information about the vaccines and enjoy treats. People who wanted the shots were required to go to Walmart’s pharmacy inside the store and proceed with the protocol.

The campaign, which will run through Sept. 25, already has visited cities across the state, including in San Antonio, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The theme of the campaign this year is “luchadores” (fighters). The outdoor tent had attractions such as costumed luchadores performing educational skits, arcade-style basketball and spinning wheel games.

The DSHS partnered with Walmart pharmacies because they have Pfizer and Moderna booster shots, according to a statement from the department. The doses contain mRNA vaccine for the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and also protection against the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, the statement said.

“The goal is to have all families fully vaccinated, especially with the booster,” said onsite spokesman Roberto Santiago. “It’s proven to be safe and effective and it protects from a severe disease.”

The tent attracted the attention of many Walmart shoppers as they made their way inside the store. Some knew about the clinic. Others found out as they arrived at the store to shop.

Julia Talavera, who is in town visiting her daughter for the weekend, said she saw the tent in the parking lot and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get her booster.

“If we don’t do it, we will never move forward; we will keep trapped in the same hole,” she said.

Talavera said she has been up to date with her shots since the vaccines were released. She said when she had COVID-19 it was “horrible” because it’s a virus in which a person’s body doesn’t know what is going on, she said.

“We are blessed to have the opportunity of having a vaccine,” Talavera said. “It’s a blessing from God that has opened a door to keep us alive.”

Tyler resident Jeanie Wade said she is against getting the vaccine for multiple factors, including religion and politics.

Wade said getting the vaccine creates more problems among people. She said she knows people whose medical condition worsened — or who have even died — after getting the shot.

“I think this (the virus) is all planned by the government and was done on purpose,” Wade said. “It’s horrible, and I would never get it.”

Talavera, however, said she became more of an advocate of getting the vaccine after she lost one of her sisters to the virus.

“It’s everyone’s choice, and I respect every opinion,” Talavera said when asked about opposing opinions about the vaccine. “I wish more people could understand that if they do it, we can move forward and start living life as we did before.”

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