City council calls on state to distribute more vaccines locally
LAS CRUCES – Local calls for more COVID-19 vaccine doses are now formally coming from the state's second largest city.
In a unanimous vote at its March 15 meeting, the Las Cruces City Council approved a resolution calling on the state to "significantly increase" the vaccine supply allocated to the county. It's the second governmental request from the area in the last seven days.
"We do need to continue to advocate for Doña Ana County to receive these equitable distributions," District 2 Councilor Tessa Abeyta Stuve, who brought the resolution before council and chairs the city's vaccine task force, said.
The resolution states the city council is concerned that "Doña Ana County and the City of Las Cruces have been able to vaccinate proportionally fewer residents than other regions of the State because less vaccines have delivered to Doña Ana County than other regions of the State."
It also states greater vaccine allocation is necessary because the region has a large elderly population and many with chronic health conditions, both groups at a "greater risk of developing serious, life-threatening complications if they contract the virus."
The city would be well-positioned to effectively distribute additional vaccines due to the "coordination, staffing, funding, education, and outreach" which has come as a result of the city establishing its own vaccine task force, the resolution states.
The Las Cruces COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force was set up in January so the city could effectively coordinate vaccine distribution with the state and local partners as well as educate the public to build trust in the vaccine's safety.
Assistant City Manager Eric Enriquez, city liaison to the task force, said an application to allow the Las Cruces Fire Department to become a vaccine provider is still pending.
District 3 Councilor Gabe Vasquez said he'd like to invite somebody from the governor's administration or the health department to brief the public and take questions about the statewide vaccine strategy in a city council work session. He asked it to be included in the correspondence about the resolution to the governor's office.
"They really have to feel a nudge from this part of the state," District 6 Councilor Yvonne Flores said.
Last week, Doña Ana County Commission Chair Manny Sanchez, who represents District 5, sent a letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham requesting the county receive additional vaccine doses. Sanchez originally planned to bring the matter before the commission itself, but ended up sending his own letter without a commission resolution and vote.
At least 25.2 percent of Doña Ana County residents had received at least one vaccine shot by March 14, amounting to 43,333 people. By Sunday, 12.6 percent, or 21,605 people, had been fully vaccinated in the county, according to New Mexico health department data.
Still, the county ranked 26th out of 33 in percent of people with at least one vaccine dose and 29th in percent fully vaccinated as of March 14.
The governor's office said Lujan Grisham is committed to an "expeditious and equitable vaccination process" throughout the state. Equity concerns have been ongoing in the county despite New Mexico's top-tier national ranking for overall vaccine distribution.
Under the state's phased vaccine distribution plan, the current eligible population is made up of hospital personnel, health care workers, congregate setting workers, educators, early childhood professionals and school staff. It also includes all state residents over 75 and all residents over 16 with chronic health conditions. Last week, the state announced it would prioritize people 60 or older with chronic health conditions because they are the most vulnerable within that category.
During a nationwide address last week, President Joe Biden called on all states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1 so the U.S. could return to some form of normalcy by July 4. That doesn't mean all adults would be vaccinated by May 1, but it would mean anyone could get in line.
The Biden administration has said the U.S. will have enough supply to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May, which is two months sooner than previously expected.