How a small Texas town doubled its COVID-19 vaccination rate in a month as the state’s rate declined

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MOUNT PLEASANT — On Friday morning, Onelia Orellana felt conflicted.

The 41-year-old mother of three had not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine because she feared side effects would keep her from working at a local supermarket and taking care of her kids.

But her husband and her pastor had both challenged her over the past 12 hours to get the shot.

“I know our people are stubborn,” she recalled Pastor Jose Sanchez saying at a Spanish-language church service the night before, eliciting chuckles from the congregation, almost all of whom had contracted COVID-19 over the past year. “Don’t be afraid. Please, go get vaccinated.”

Her husband, who himself had been shamed by his coworkers into getting vaccinated, shook his head at her over breakfast as she tried to decide.

“You’re not going to get it,” he said.

Orellana snatched her keys off the table and headed out to prove him wrong.

At the vaccination clinic inside the bright white fellowship hall at Tennison Memorial United Methodist Church in downtown Mount Pleasant, Orellana felt her doubts melt away.