Ramsey de la Garza wasn’t sure he should get a COVID-19 vaccine, but he knew he would feel safer at Fiesta next month if he did. And he doesn’t plan on missing out on that again.

Wanting to avoid multiple shots, De la Garza pulled his pickup truck into the parking lot of 2600 Plaza Banquet Hall on the city’s South Side on Saturday morning and got a one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, some Fiesta medals, and a raffle ticket for some Fiesta swag – all while sitting in his truck. Some people stopped to take photos with El Rey Feo and members of his court, who stood under a carport to take shelter from the light rain.

“I feel like I made my mama happy,” he said of getting vaccinated. “I can be a little more relaxed now.”

San Antonio City Councilwomen Rebecca J. Viagran, Adriana Rocha Garcia, and Shirley Gonzales held the Fiesta-themed, drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic with Rey Feo LXXII Thomas Aguillon to encourage people to get vaccinated so they can safely participate in Fiesta events. With Carvajal Pharmacy and WellMed on site, 134 people were vaccinated Saturday.

The pandemic led to the postponement and eventual cancellation of the annual citywide celebration last year. Fiesta returns this year, but was moved from its usual mid-April dates to June. The party kicks off June 17 with an opening celebration at Hemisfair, followed by 10 more days of events.

De la Garza said he was excited to go to Fiesta this year and is looking forward to the four-day A Night In Old San Antonio (NIOSA), which begins June 22 in La Villita.

“It’s going to be a lot safer now,” he said, referring to the increasing number of people getting vaccinated.

A line of about 60 cars waited for the clinic to open at 9 a.m. Saturday, said Brittany Muir, WellMed chief of staff for enterprise clinical operations. WellMed has vaccinated more than 280,000 people since January, but fewer people are getting vaccinated now partly because of a hesitancy to get the vaccines. Muir said that has led the health provider to get creative and partner with San Antonio City Council members to incentivize people to get their shots.

Miroslava Martinez, 65, (left) smiles at Jimmie Keenan (right), Senior Vice President of Clinic Operations with WellMed, after she assured an apprehensive Martinez to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Martinez cited the numerous reports of blood clots as the reason she didn't want to get the one-dose vaccine. After speaking with Keenan, she decided to get the vaccine.
Miroslava Martinez, 65, (left) smiles after speaking with Jimmie Keenan (right), senior vice president of clinic operations with WellMed, about her concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

The Fiesta-themed event appeared to work. Viagran said people were excited to see the royalty and get their medals. The District 3 councilwoman is the community investment minister for Rey Feo LXXII and helped organize the Saturday event.

“As a community investment minister, what I wanted to make sure is let’s serve our community by making sure we have vaccines available for people to be ready to go to Fiesta safely,” Viagran said. “I think it’s hitting them like, ‘Yes, it’s really going to happen, it’s really going to take place.’ But the only reason it’s really going to take place is because people are getting their vaccines.”

College student Jasmine Williams got vaccinated Saturday to prepare to return to Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, where she studies political science. She’s also looking forward to being able to do more, like attend Fiesta, while feeling safer. Williams believes the fact that more people are getting vaccinated will enable people to enjoy Fiesta without worrying as much about COVID-19.

“I’ve been celebrating since I was a baby,” she said. “We camp out every year when they have the Fiesta parade.”

What is Williams looking forward to the most about Fiesta? “The food,” she said.

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.