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Vaccinations continue as NM ends 2020 just shy of 2,500 virus deaths

Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo receives her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday at Sandia Pueblo, where she is a member. (Courtesy New Mexico Indian Affairs Department)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Sandia Pueblo member Lynn Trujillo said she felt a sense of hope.

For Mark Moores – whose laboratory tests for COVID-19 – the vaccine brought relief.

They became two of the most prominent members of state government Thursday to reveal they got a COVID-19 vaccine. A third state official, Dr. Tracie Collins, who leads the Department of Health, also has received a shot.

In separate interviews Thursday, Trujillo and Moores reported some arm soreness, but no other side effects.

“I think the vaccine,” Trujillo said, “is definitely a message of hope for all of us.”

Trujillo, 48, is secretary of the Indian Affairs Department under Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She got a Moderna shot Wednesday in her role as a member of Sandia Pueblo, a community that received doses directly from the U.S. Indian Health Service.

Moores, 50, is a Republican senator from Albuquerque. He got the Pfizer shot about two weeks ago in his role as a frontline worker who collects samples for testing at a laboratory he and his wife own.

“All summer and fall, it goes through your mind: ‘If I slip up one time, if my mask isn’t snugly fit, I can get COVID,'” Moores said. “Getting that shot was liberating.”

Moores and Trujillo both said they will continue wearing masks and taking other steps to limit the transmission of COVID-19. And they encouraged New Mexicans to embrace vaccination when they’re eligible.

‘People excited about it’

Their comments come as New Mexico hospitals report progress vaccinating their frontline employees. The state’s initial allocation of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been dedicated to front-line workers in health care, staff and residents at long-term care facilities, and Native American communities.

Alex Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said UNM Hospital has administered thousands of vaccine doses already to employees who work directly with COVID-19 patients.

The health system, she said, is now opening up vaccination to any other employee working in its hospitals or clinics rather than at home.

“People are really excited about it,” Sanchez said.

UNM had administered about 7,200 doses through Wednesday.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services reported that it has administered the first vaccine dose to almost 6,000 front-line workers, including nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and housekeeping staff. Presbyterian is also vaccinating first responders at Albuquerque Fire Rescue.

“This vaccine has been well received and deeply appreciated by our care teams, who have served the community with unwavering dedication throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Jason Mitchell, Presbyterian’s chief medical officer, said in a written statement.

In this file photo, health care workers at the University of New Mexico Hospital receive their first injections of the COVID-19 vaccine. (SOURCE: University of New Mexico Hospital)

Collins, a medical doctor and the health secretary-designate for New Mexico, received her first dose of the vaccine in late December in her role as a health care provider, a state spokesman said.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses for maximum protection, spaced three to four weeks apart.

Collins said this week that New Mexico had administered 41,000 doses of the vaccine overall through Sunday, or about 83% of the supply.

More doses have come in since then, bringing the total to about 71,700 doses received by the state.

New Mexico has been vaccinating people as the supplies come in, not holding back half the doses to provide a second shot. The booster doses will come from future shipments.

A spokesman for Lujan Grisham said earlier this week that the governor isn’t yet scheduled for the vaccine, given the limited supply.

Sen. Moores said he supports vaccinating legislators and elected officials soon because of their essential role in state government. Vaccination, he said, would make it easier for lawmakers to conduct more of their work in person, with the 60-day session set to start within three weeks.

“I highly encourage everyone to get it as soon as they’re eligible,” Moores said. “It is a liberating experience, and it’s what we’re going to need to put this pandemic in our rearview mirror.”

41 COVID deaths Thursday

New Mexico ended 2020 just shy of 2,500 coronavirus deaths.

State health officials reported 41 more COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, pushing the official virus-related death toll to 2,477 residents since March.

The state has averaged about 30 deaths a day over the last week. At its peak, New Mexico was averaging about 36 daily deaths in mid-December.

Thursday’s victims included three women in their 30s and 17 adults in their 80s or 90s.

The state also reported 1,684 new cases of the disease – a bit higher than the average of about 1,100 daily cases for the last week. At its peak, New Mexico averaged almost 2,700 case a day, in late November.

Health officials said 803 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in New Mexico, a figure that’s been roughly stable the last few days.

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