New Mexico health department increases COVID-19 vaccine supply to Do​​​​​​​ña Ana County

Las Cruces Fire Department reportedly applies to be additional vaccine provider

Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico Department of Health is increasing supplies of COVID-19 vaccine for Doña Ana County as city and county governments develop plans to accelerate vaccinations. 

On Thursday, the health department said an additional 12,000 doses were on the way, a 25 percent increase that it said would be sustained. 

The DOH also said the department's equity working group, tasked with ensuring fair distribution of the vaccine to vulnerable populations throughout the state, would reach out to health councils in the coming weeks to work more closely with local communities on vaccination efforts.

Doña Ana County, which borders Texas, is home to New Mexico's second-largest city and shares a busy port of entry with Mexico, has ranked near the bottom of the state as a percentage of its residents vaccinated, which local officials have attributed to inequitable supplies under the state's centralized distribution system. 

Las Cruces:Leaders ask for indoor dining, more COVID-19 vaccines in wake of Texas reopenings

As of Thursday, the health department's online COVID-19 vaccine dashboard reported 30,669 of the county's 171,823 residents aged 16 and older — 17.8 percent of the population — had received at least an initial dose of vaccine, while 15,703 (or 9.1 percent) were fully vaccinated. 

Cyrus Baker, 33, receives his COVID-19 vaccine at Gadsden High School on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

Per capita, that puts Doña Ana County at 30th out of 33 counties for the share of its population partially vaccinated, and 28th for population fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, 73,615 county residents had signed up on the state's vaccine registry, per DOH data. 

Registration is available online at, or by telephone at 1-855-600-3453.

Is Doña Ana County vaccinating quickly enough? Health department points to supply, local planning

The flow of vaccine to the county has frustrated elected leaders as well residents waiting for their opportunity to receive the vaccine, a wait already long because supplies of the three vaccines approved for emergency use are so limited.

Under the state's phased vaccine rollout — which offers vaccination appointments to population subgroups in a particular order based on age, health conditions and occupation — nearly 800,000 individuals have been eligible statewide, while supplies have come in at less than a tenth of that number. 

Supplies to New Mexico increasing

Supplies to the state have been increasing. On Wednesday, state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said more than 80,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had been received in New Mexico this week, with 87,800 ordered for next week.

The state had also received an allotment of 17,200 doses of the third vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson and requiring only a single dose for full vaccination. The other two vaccines both require two doses, spaced a 21 to 28 days apart. 

Tracie Collins

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was distributed to 10 counties, Collins said, based on vulnerable populations, positivity rates and comparatively low vaccine coverage in prior weeks. 

That included Doña Ana County, where Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces confirmed receiving 1,000 doses and the Las Cruces public health office had ordered 2,000, per the DOH. 

Weekly deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were not likely to begin until sometime in the spring as production ramps up, but President Joe Biden vowed this week that there would be vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May. 

Meanwhile, city and county officials are seeking ways to expand vaccination events locally. 

Las Cruces City District 2 Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve speaks during a Las Cruces City Council work session conducted by video conference on Monday, July 13, 2020.

City and county work on solutions

Las Cruces City Councilor Tessa Abeyta Stuve, who chairs the city's vaccination task force, said, "There have been conflicting reports on why we never received equitable doses to begin with," but the task force was focused on solutions and capacity-building for expanding vaccine administration locally. 

That includes an application by the Las Cruces Fire Department to register as a COVID-19 vaccine provider. Abeyta Stuve said that application has been pending for more than two weeks. 

Doña Ana County Chairman Manuel Sanchez said he was composing a formal request to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for more support, while the county Office of Emergency Management seeks a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist with vaccination efforts. 

For subscribers: Red to Yellow and back again: Doña Ana County case averages and test positivity, explained

Both officials welcomed news of increasing allocations from the health department, which organizes distribution of the vaccine to registered providers statewide and provides guidance on who is eligible to receive the scarce quantities of vaccine. 

Doña Ana County Commission Chair Manuel Sanchez seen during a county commission meeting Feb. 9, 2021.

"I'm glad to see that there is an increase," Abeyta Stuve said, "but it does need to be a sustained increase. We know especially with the changes that are happening in Texas that our community is going to face additional hurdles during this time, and perhaps barriers from getting us into different phases from Red to Green."

On Tuesday, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he was ending that state's mask mandate and moving to "open Texas 100 percent," against the advice of the state's own health officials. Doña Ana County directly borders the El Paso, Texas metropolitan area. 

More:Mayor persists with indoor dining request, saying data is in county's favor

Abeyta Stuve expressed concern for the potential impact on community spread in the Las Cruces region, given the workforce commute and commercial traffic over the state line, as the county struggles to move to looser business restrictions on New Mexico's Red to Green framework. 

Abeyta Stuve said that as the DOH's equity working group continues to assess vaccine distribution, "it needs to be considered that we are running at a deficit already, and now we're going to have these additional issues."

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.