New Mexico COVID-19 vaccinations now open to majority of residents
While 93% of residents aged 16 and over are eligible, supplies remain tight
ALBUQUERQUE – In a surprise announcement Friday morning, the New Mexico Department of Health announced a major opening in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, making vaccinations eligible for nearly all state residents over the age of 16.
That announcement was followed with news that New Mexico has now administered more than one million doses of vaccine against the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Vaccines will now be available for all subgroups under Phase One of the state's tiered rollout of the three vaccines in use under an emergency authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration.
The rollout proceeds in tiered phases based on residents' age, medical conditions, and occupations. Until Friday, the groups eligible for vaccine included frontline medical workers, staff of congregate facilities, residents aged 75 and older or residents with certain chronic health conditions aged 16 and over.
Now, in addition to those, the remaining subgroups within phases 1B and 1C are now included in eligibility for the inoculation. That includes residents ages 60 and older, frontline and other essential workers who cannot work remotely, and residents of congregate care facilities.
Altogether, the subgroups eligible to be vaccinated comprise 1,620,000 residents, or 96 percent of residents aged 16 and older, according to the health department.
"We will redouble our efforts to reach and vaccinate seniors and others in the early phases who have not yet received their shots,” state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins stated in a new release.
Additionally, providers would be instructed to prioritize members of earlier subgroups for appointments.
Phase 2 — encompassing the general public not included in the earlier phases — was anticipated to be eligible in mid-April, the department said.
Most New Mexicans waiting for vaccine can expect to wait, however, as demand for vaccines still exceeds supply even though production and allocations have ramped up on a weekly basis.
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Collins reported Wednesday that 98,000 doses of all three vaccines were expected next week, including 2,400 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
At that weekly update, Collins did not hint at Friday's opening, but on Friday morning the department said the decision was made because 60 percent of the currently eligible subgroups have received at least the first dose of the two-shot vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna). The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only a single dose.
In its announcement the department also stated that vaccine providers in some parts of the state were running out of eligible residents to fill appointments in their area.
Meanwhile, in southern New Mexico's Doña Ana County, the department recently increased allocations of vaccine after vaccinations of its population lagged behind most other counties and local officials alleged the county was not receiving an equitable distribution.
Also on Friday, the DOH reported that 22.4 percent of New Mexicans aged at least 16 were fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks had elapsed since their ultimate dose of vaccine, while 37.4 percent had received at least an initial dose.
That reportedly includes approximately 73 percent of residents aged 75 and older who have registered on the state's vaccine registry have received one dose.
To be vaccinated in New Mexico, residents are required to register on the health department's COVID-19 vaccine registry, www.VaccineNM.org. Registration can be done over telephone as well by calling (855) 600-3453 and selecting 0 and then 4.
Homebound vaccinations will also be expanded and the DOH is dispatching mobile vaccination units to the villages of Hatch and Columbus over the next week, with mobile events at other locations planned as well.
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