New Mexico COVID-19 updates: State passes 3,000 deaths; official says vaccine supply ample

Susan Montoya Bryan
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico health officials said Wednesday they don’t expect to run out of COVID-19 vaccine.

Also Wednesday, the state’s death toll surpassed 3,000 as an additional 34 fatalities related to complications stemming from the virus were reported. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico have topped 165,800.

Since the vaccine distribution system was put in place late last year, New Mexico has been ordering the maximum number of doses that it can and its orders are typically filled, said Matt Bieber, a spokesman for the state Health Department.

Nearly 200,000 doses already have been delivered to the state, and more than three-quarters of those have been administered. That puts New Mexico among the top states when it comes to distribution rates.

“If we could order more, we could distribute it,” Bieber said in an email. “We have a very strong provider network, thousands of health care professionals ready to get vaccine into arms, and nearly half a million New Mexicans registered for vaccine. … The faster we receive vaccine, the faster we can move through the phases and deliver it to New Mexicans.”

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Some governors complained last week about the federal government’s allocation of doses, and it’s unclear how soon President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to make changes to the nation’s approach when it comes to distribution.

While health care workers were given first priority, officials with some of the largest hospitals in New Mexico say between 20% and 30% of their medical staff have declined a shot. They couldn’t pinpoint exact reasons since taking the vaccine is optional, but noted that some may be waiting to see how it affects people.

State health officials said they expect that hesitancy to decline over time.

About 70% to 75% of health workers at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe have been vaccinated. Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales said during a briefing Tuesday that side effects were minimal for the first group so more staffers started signing up.

About 80% of health care workers within the University of New Mexico Hospital system in Albuquerque have been vaccinated, officials said.

The vaccine for COVId is distributed to those eligible on NMSU Campus in Las Cruces on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

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Under New Mexico’s distribution plan, the vaccine is now going to those who are 75 or older as well as people with medical conditions that put them at risk. Those who work in certain front-line essential businesses also are part of the current phase.

The state’s death toll surpassed 3,000 on Wednesday as an additional 34 fatalities related to complications stemming from the virus were reported.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico have topped 165,800. More than 880 additional cases were reported Wednesday.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and some people can be infected without showing symptoms.