NEW YORK TIMES — Gabby Garcia did not expect to feel like crying when she sat down for her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. But as the long needle pierced her skin, she thought back to the agonizing outbreak in her family that killed her sister, hospitalized her brother and also left her ill for days.

“It was a sense of relief, ‘I’m getting it’,” Ms. Garcia said of the vaccine. “It was the sense of what if? What if this had been available sooner? My sister’s death and us getting sick definitely motivated me to get the vaccine.”

While officials across the country have offered free beer, concert tickets and millions of dollars in lottery winnings to encourage vaccinations, residents of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas have needed little prodding. Exposure to death and disease has been enough incentive.

The four-county region accounts for nearly 10 percent of the state’s some 52,000 deaths from the coronavirus. But today, deaths are significantly down, as are case numbers, and vaccination rates are higher than both the broader state and national averages. In one county, about 70 percent of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to state figures and a vaccine tracker by The New York Times.

“I think pretty much everyone in the region knew someone who died from Covid,” said Dr. Michael R. Dobbs, vice dean of clinical affairs for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which operates the region’s only medical school. “So people wanted the vaccine.”

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the full story by reporter Edgar Sandoval in The New York Times.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news clip shows Gabby Garcia and her brother Eddie Garcia. They lost a sister to the coronavirus last year. The siblings, who also fell ill to the virus, are now vaccinated. “We did it for her,” Ms. Garcia said. Photo Credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times.

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