LUBBOCK, Texas — Dozens of tourists are making their way to the Hub City — but not to see the Windmill Museum or to pay homage to Buddy Holly. Instead, they’re here to roll up their sleeves for a coronavirus vaccine.
It’s called vaccine tourism, and Lubbock has seen visitors in search of the shot from all over Texas, other states and even from Mexico.
“We had been struggling so hard to try to get appointments here in San Antonio,” Charles Butcher, who came from San Antonio to get a vaccine in Lubbock, said.
In Lubbock County, vaccine appointments are now typically available for anyone who wants one even though you might have to wait a day or two or refresh appointment times.
But that’s not the case everywhere, and Lubbock’s vaccine availability is drawing visitors from all over, including Butcher. He got his first and second dose at a local CVS Pharmacy because he said getting an appointment in his hometown was nearly impossible.
“It was like a radio contest, and they were just getting busy signal, busy signal, busy signal. Literally hundreds of phone calls,” Butcher said.
Exasperated, the father of two young children turned to Google, and to his surprise, he found vaccine appointments available across Northwest Texas. He booked the first appointment he could, and he hit the road.
“I started driving around midnight … It was quite a ride, and it was by myself and it was lonely,” Butcher said, laughing.
He made same-day round trips for both the first and the second dose, driving the first time and flying the second. He said wanted to get the vaccine to protect his children and to be able to go back to work.
And he’s not the only one who went in search of the vaccine in Lubbock.
Gabriel Llausas from El Paso came to H-E-B for his first and second dose. He has asthma and got COVID-19 last summer, putting him in the emergency room for a night, and he didn’t want to risk getting the virus again.
“[Getting COVID-19] was quite a frightening experience … so it was really important for me to get vaccinated and have a defense against the virus,” Llausas said.
Now, it’s been more than a week since both Llausas and Butcher received their second vaccine dose. While the vaccination has given them a semblance of peace, it’s also given them the freedom to pick up their lives where they left off.
“For the first time in a year, my mother was able to come over and hug my children and enjoy Easter,” Butcher said.