New Mexico faces vaccine shortage

Associated Press
Health care

ALBUQUERQUE — Pediatricians in New Mexico are turning away patients looking for vaccines because they have run out of supplies provided through the state Department of Health and paid for by private insurance companies.

Legislation last year required private insurers to cover the cost of vaccines, The Albuquerque Journal reports. And though DOH sent out a $10 million bill, only about $7.2 million in payments came back.

Funding for children covered through federal programs such as Medicaid comes from the federal government.

Previously DOH purchased vaccines for all New Mexico children and distributed them at no cost to medical providers.

DOH spokesman Kenny Vigil said the agency is doing everything it can to make sure providers have what they need to immunize children.

“A number of large orders for vaccines have recently been placed by the Department of Health, and we expect supply for providers to improve soon,” read a statement provided by Vigil.

Vigil said there is up to a month delay between starting an order and shipping the product.

Dr. Lance Chilton, a retired pediatrician who proposed the legislative measure, said if the shortage persists it could mean children are susceptible to diseases and that they could transmit them.

“We’re really very worried about it,” he said.

Albuquerque mom Allison Reynolds was turned away when she took her son for his one-year wellness checkup and vaccinations this week. Her pediatrician told her she was unable to give the shots for hepatitis A and chickenpox, also known as varicella. She says she is worried her son is at risk of infection at the day care center he attends.

“I wonder how many other 1-year-olds are unvaccinated,” Reynolds said.

Pediatrician Melissa Mason said her office has been experiencing vaccine shortages for a few weeks.

“It’s scary as well,” Mason said. “Vaccines save lives, period.”