New Mexicans tackle vaccine distribution, as some say Texas holds the answer to getting vaccinated now

Mike Smith
Carlsbad Current-Argus

John McCall said the over two-hour wait to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a hub in Amarillo, Texas -- though lengthy -- was efficient.

"It's very efficient. They got a large auditorium and probably got a couple hundred of chairs in it, and they bring you through the line and you go sit down and fill out the paperwork," said McCall, 71 of Pampa, Texas of his early January visit to the hub.

While waiting his turn, McCall said he and his wife struck up a conversation with "two gentlemen from New Mexico.'

"They had driven five hours to get to Amarillo," he said, the two men guided there by relatives who live in Texas. 

McCall attributed the long wait and long lines at the hub to a growing comfort and popularity with the available COVID-19 vaccines. He waited only about an hour for his first dose after making an appointment to receive it.

McCall was eligible to receive a vaccination in Texas, where the state is in its Phase 1 rollout. Persons eligible to receive the vaccine at this time are frontline and essential workers as well as vulnerable populations, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

More:City of Carlsbad update: Check out the new vaccine dashboard

More:Wait your turn or take a trip to Texas? Equitable vaccine distribution is everyone's responsibility

But reports of New Mexicans taking advantage of easy access to the vaccinations in Texas are growing.

"The vaccine shipped to Texas is for vaccinating people who spend a significant amount of time in Texas," said Lara M. Anton, press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The department did not respond to further questions about the number of incidents of New Mexicans receiving vaccinations in the Lone Star State.

"In the panhandle of Texas, you just go get a shot," McCall said, noting that some clinics require a reservation.

"Here in Amarillo at the hub, no, you just show up and that's one reason that people out of New Mexico are coming over. They can just come over and get in line," he said.

McCall said he doesn't have much of a problem with New Mexicans crossing the border for access to the vaccine.

"I think personally many places have made it complicated and it doesn't need to be," he said. "I have no animosity with those guys from Santa Fe who came to get shots. No."

It's a sentiment that Eddy County District 2 Commission Jon Henry shared in a statement last week, as Eddy County officials raised concerns over the number of COVID-19 vaccinations available to residents following a New Mexico Department of Health report that the number of vaccinations issued to residents was among the lowest in the state.

Eddy County was 26th among New Mexico's 33 counties when it came to administering vaccine doses per 100 residents. 

Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales acknowledged in a press briefing by hospital leaders from Albuquerque and Santa Fe Monday that some New Mexico residents are obtaining vaccinations by crossing state lines into Texas but defended New Mexico’s rollout.

“We are collaborating closely with NMDOH,” she said. “We are following the phases … and we are doing it in an equitable way.”

“The number of doses administered in Eddy County is disproportionate to the number of citizens in the County compared to other counties across the State. Eddy County is the 11th most populous county in the State,” a news release from Eddy County stated. 

County medical providers like Carlsbad Medical Center (CMC) and Artesia General Hospital (AGH) lacked vaccines, the release indicated.

A sign at Artesia General Hospital reminds people to wash their hands on Feb. 4, 2021. Eddy County officials expressed concern over the availability of COVID-19 vaccines at Artesia General Hospital and Carlsbad Medical Center.

"Our provider team has been stretched for months to consistently deliver safe, quality care in the midst of the pandemic. Vaccination of our providers is ongoing as we receive more doses from the state. The vaccine is an important protection tool so we can sustain our healthcare workforce," said Melissa Suggs, CMC spokesperson. 

"We've been in communication with the City of Carlsbad and Eddy County Government since the fall to keep them informed about our census and staffing challenges from community spread. The New Mexico Department of Health is coordinating distribution of vaccine doses across the state."

Henry asked Eddy County Emergency Manager Jennifer Armendariz to clarify just which medical facilities were receiving the County's allotted doses at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

More:Eddy County COVID-19 deaths now 100

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Armendariz said. “I was told we were allocated 800 vaccinations for Eddy County. If Carlsbad Medical isn’t taking any, Artesia General is only taking partial, then where are the rest going is what I want to know.”

District 2 Eddy County Commissioner Jon Henry said New Mexicans can drive to Texas for a COVID-19 vaccine with no trouble.

In New Mexico, vaccines are being provided to front line and essential workers as well as vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, only as part of its Phase 1 rollout. New Mexicans were urged to register to receive the vaccine via an online and phone based registration system, while the state Department of Health notified persons this week it was doing what it could to keep up with demand.

Henry said he knows New Mexicans who received a vaccination in Texas with no issues.

“It is a travesty and shame the number of hoops the state is making us jump through just to get the vaccine to our citizens, when folks can drive across the state line and get vaccinated in Texas with no problem,” he said in the news release.

Eddy County Commissioners tasked county administrators to craft a solution for the problem just as New Mexico Human Service Secretary David Scrase announced Feb. 3 the state would receive about 6% more doses this week.

New Mexico is vaccinating at a rate of 9,000 persons a day. Scrase said that nearly 292,000 doses, more than 92% of the doses the state has received, were administered. 

"I feel like we're seeing every possible sign that things are getting better," Scrase said. "I'm not going to say we're out of the woods because we still need to get an awful lot of people vaccinated."

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AGH moves to next phase of COVID-19 vaccination plan

The Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccination is now available at Artesia General Hospital, according to a hospital news release.

“People who are 75 years of age and older or age 16 and older with at least one chronic condition are of the highest priority within this group,” the release said. 

More:Eddy County continues to see red in COVID-19 categories

Also included in Phase 1B are people at high occupational risk, such as frontline essential workers in critical infrastructure workplaces and vulnerable populations, the news release read.

“AGH and I encourage all eligible people in our community to receive the vaccine as soon as they qualify,” said Dr. Marshall G Baca Jr, emergency department medical director at Artesia General Hospital. “The COVID (19) vaccine is safe and the best way to protect ourselves, our families and our community against the ongoing spread of this pandemic.”

From left: Artesia General Hospital staff members, David McEachern, Dr. Marshall Baca Jr. and Kim Salgado participate in a teleconference call March 25, 2020 addressing the death of a COVID-19 patient.

Artesia General Hospital started a waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine at and is asking those interested and eligible to add their name.

“When the vaccine becomes available, the hospital will contact those who are eligible with next steps. Vaccines are currently in limited supply and are only available as allocations arrive at the hospital. Everyone wanting the vaccine will be accommodated, but it may take some time,” the release read.

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Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.