As the COVID vaccine rolls out, the waiting game begins - Albuquerque Journal

As the COVID vaccine rolls out, the waiting game begins

Jeremy Willard, a registered nurse at CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, prepares a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. The hospital received an initial batch of doses that will be used to vaccinate frontline health care workers who work with COVID-19 patients. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — Alvin Mund, 91, has spent months cooped up at home in Albuquerque, limiting his trips outside the house to doctor visits and essential outings.

He is eager to see his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

But even as the first COVID-19 vaccines reach New Mexico hospitals this week, it isn’t clear when older adults like Mund will roll up their sleeves for a shot.

Dr. Tracie Collins

Dr. Tracie Collins, the state’s new health secretary-designate, said Tuesday that the broader distribution of vaccines to the public will depend on federal approvals and the supply available to the state. In the meantime, she said, residents should avoid gathering outside their household for the holidays and continue wearing masks.

“Today we begin to turn the tide,” Collins said in an online briefing. But “you cannot let your guard down.”

New Mexico this week is getting about 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine — largely sent to hospitals, where frontline health care workers are getting their shots. The health care providers will need a second dose of the vaccine in about three weeks, shots expected to come from a future round of doses delivered to the state.

The University of New Mexico and Presbyterian Healthcare were among the hospitals scheduled to get their shipments Tuesday. UNM’s Health Sciences Center said its doses are for employees working with COVID-19 patients.

“The principle here,” Collins said, “is that the first vaccine doses will go to those who are most at risk for exposure.”

The next priority group will be people at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. New Mexico is targeting the Moderna vaccine — expected to receive federal approval soon — for that purpose.

A broader group of health care workers and people who live in group settings — such as shelters, jails and prisons — would be part of the later “Phase 1” round of vaccinations in New Mexico, according to a draft of the state’s vaccination plan.

Phase 1 is the state’s designation for the period when vaccine supplies are limited.

Adults like Mund could get their shots near the end of Phase 1 or early Phase 2, when a much greater supply is available. The transition between the two phases is when the state will prioritize older residents, people with underlying health conditions or other risk factors, and essential workers, according to the vaccination plan.

Mund said he hopes he and others his age aren’t put on the “backburner” just because they aren’t in nursing homes.

“If I should get sick, it’s a death warrant for me,” Mund said in an interview.

His wife, who’s 85, would also be at risk, he said.

“We’re not disposable,” Mund said.

For now, Collins stressed that New Mexicans should stay committed to wearing masks and keeping their distance from people they don’t live with. Even people who get the COVID-19 shot, she said, should still continue wearing masks because it isn’t clear yet whether the vaccine will prevent them from transmitting the virus to others.

The goal, nonetheless, is to vaccinate as many people as possible.

“We’re all exhausted,” Collins said. “What I’m hopeful for is that in one year we’ll have more than 70% of the state vaccinated, that we’ll have a good response to the vaccine and we’ll have more data on whether you can reduce transmission.”

Home » News » New Mexico News » As the COVID vaccine rolls out, the waiting game begins

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