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HARLINGEN, Texas — Firefighters and ambulance crews in a South Texas city that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic are bringing vaccines directly to the homes of its most vulnerable people.

As part of Harlingen's new Homebound Vaccination Program, a team of 15 firefighters is working with the South Texas Emergency Care Foundation to find homebound residents and offer them the vaccine, the Valley Morning Star reported.

"The majority are bedridden or homebound on doctors' conditions," said Josh Ramirez, the city's public health director. "They are handicapped with underlying health conditions. They are vulnerable, already battling an illness, so we want to make sure they're protected."

In the Rio Grande Valley, where Harlingen is located, hospitals filled up and funeral homes were overwhelmed as the area became a coronavirus hotspot last summer. The Texas National Guard was brought in to help manage portable morgues. Neighboring Hidalgo County has had the eighth-most coronavirus cases among the state's counties during the pandemic.

Harlingen officials have been calling homebound residents whose names are on a list created by the emergency care foundation and offering them a chance to get vaccinated.

"We're going through that list to see who wants to get it along with their providers," Ramirez said. "We're still sorting out the calls."

Firefighters are administering the Pfizer vaccine while paramedics observe the patients to see if they have any negative reactions.

Since the city launched the program Monday, the team has vaccinated about 20 homebound residents, Ramirez said.

"They're very eager, very thankful, very excited to be vaccinated," Ramirez said.

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