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VA hospital offering vaccinations to veterans

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center began calling military veterans on Friday with a recorded message that the facility is now taking appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The announcement of the opportunity for veterans with health problems capped a week in which nearly 54,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered in New Mexico.

But not everyone who expected to get a vaccination ended up doing so, and several hundred who could have been vaccinated at the University of New Mexico Pit arena skipped their appointments, the state Department of Health said.

State health officials reiterated on Friday the eight categories of groups currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine after school officials in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque learned their scheduled vaccination events for this weekend had been canceled.

The state Department of Health on Friday said a DOH employee had mistakenly approved the events and a “miscommunication” occurred.

At the same time, the state Department of Health reminded the public that the groups currently eligible under the state’s phased vaccination plan are: hospital personnel, long-term care facility residents and staff, medical first responders, congregate setting workers, those involved in direct medical care or other in-person services, home-based health care and hospice workers, people 75 and older, and those age 16 and older who are at risk of COVID-19 complications because of an underlying health condition.

“No other groups are eligible at this time,” the news release stated.

The DOH said about 100 people with appointments for vaccines at the newly opened Pit arena clinic failed to show up on Wednesday and the same number were no-shows on Thursday. But clinic staff was able to keep from wasting doses of the vaccine by quickly contacting others who had already been identified for potential appointments and vaccinating them. Doses are stored at very low temperatures and must be used within 6 hours of being thawed and diluted for vaccination. They cannot be refrozen.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the state continued to see a drop in new cases of COVID-19, although the high number of virus-related deaths experienced in recent days hasn’t abated.

The state on Friday reported 921 new COVID-19 cases, with 33 additional deaths.

The total number of COVID-19 deaths to date in New Mexico is 3,077. Of that number, 600 died in the first 22 days of January alone.

Veterans with health problems who are interested in getting vaccinated are instructed to call 505-265-1711, ext. 3915 or 3916 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Meanwhile, nearly a half million New Mexicans have registered with the state to receive a vaccine and 185,923 doses have been administered so far. The DOH on Friday reported 212,600 doses have been received by the state to date.

State health officials continued to urge people, whether or not they are in the current priority groups, to register on the vaccine website.

New Mexico is one of the only states in the country with a COVID-19 vaccine registration portal for the public to get an appointment for the vaccine, state officials said. You can register at vacccinenm.org.

The idea is to streamline the process of getting people vaccinated so they don’t have to shop around for a pharmacy or clinic with openings and make their own appointments.

But about 20% of New Mexico providers signed on to administer the vaccines without getting their patients through the website. They may end up bypassing the state portal and allow patients to set their own appointments directly rather than having to go through the state website.

The names of those clinics and pharmacies can be found as blue dots on a New Mexico map that appears on the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard at cvvaccine.nmhealth.org. No addresses or contact information is listed.

However, a random check Friday by the Journal couldn’t find a single “blue” site currently offering vaccines. Several advised going through the state website.

One Santa Fe doctor’s office listed on the website said they were trying to get off the site.

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