NM could get vaccine doses this month - Albuquerque Journal

NM could get vaccine doses this month

A medical staffer warms her hands while working at a drive-through coronavirus testing site at Lovelace Hospital in Albuquerque on Wednesday. New Mexico officials expect to get an initial allotment of a COVID-19 vaccine this month. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico health officials are expecting to get an initial batch of more than 17,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, according to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office.

The roughly 17,500 doses of a Pfizer vaccine expected to be received in mid- to late December would be targeted at front-line health care workers statewide in accordance with a state vaccine distribution plan, Lujan Grisham spokesman Matt Nerzig said Wednesday.

Other governors have also been told in recent days how many doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine they will be getting from the federal government.

The Pfizer vaccine, one of several COVID-19 vaccines created under a federal program, has not yet received federal approval, which could be granted soon. The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first country to approve the vaccine for public use.

However, distributing the vaccine could prove difficult, and New Mexico health officials have said more federal funding might be needed to get it done. State lawmakers did approve $10 million in state funds during a special session last week for vaccine distribution and other pandemic-related expenses.

One potential challenge with Pfizer’s vaccine, which has been shown to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on initial trials, is that it must be shipped and stored at an extremely low temperature – at least 94 degrees below zero.

In New Mexico, one of four states selected for a Pfizer vaccine distribution pilot program, state officials have surveyed health care providers about virus preparedness issues, including cold storage capacity.

The Governor’s Office recently said that state officials expect to be able to count on Pfizer’s temporary thermal shippers to keep the vaccine at the proper temperate during transit.

Meanwhile, a widespread and effective COVID-19 vaccine is seen by state health officials as a key part in ending – or least largely slowing – the pandemic that has killed 1,629 New Mexicans since March.

“A vaccine is the end game,” Human Services Secretary David Scrase said this summer. “Almost all of us have to be immune to it.”

Given that backdrop, a team of New Mexico medical providers, epidemiologists and ethicists has been preparing since this summer for how to handle the vaccines once they’re available.

New Mexico filed its preliminary state coronavirus vaccination plan with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October.

That plan calls for vulnerable health care workers to be prioritized during the state’s first phase of vaccine distribution. Nursing home residents, first responders and those who work in prisons, homeless shelters and other group settings would be next in line to get the vaccine.

Eventually, all New Mexicans who want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine would be able to get one, although that might not happen until the vaccine is more widely available.

Even then, state health officials have maintained that developing herd immunity will require a significant percentage of people to be vaccinated.

“If it’s widely available, I’m getting a vaccine,” Lujan Grisham said in August. “I would want my family to get a vaccine. I want them to be as safe as they can now that we have this deadly virus living among us.”

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