Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Nearly 40% of New Mexicans who have died from COVID-19 were Hispanic, or Latino, a group that accounts for 44% of those who have tested positive. Yet the percentage of Hispanics vaccinated in the state has been disproportionately low, according to new data from the state Department of Health.
The DOH online vaccine dashboard lists Hispanics/Latinos as the largest of five identified ethnic groups in New Mexico, with 780,908 persons eligible for the vaccine. But the group is second from the bottom in the percentage vaccinated. About 12% have received at least one shot and just under 6% were fully vaccinated as of Thursday.
African Americans have fared even worse, with 9% partially vaccinated and less than 5% fully vaccinated.
Whites eligible for the vaccine total 686,030, according to DOH data. Of that group, which accounts for about 29% of deaths in the state, the agency reported that 17.4% had been partially vaccinated and 8% fully vaccinated.
Native Americans, the hardest hit ethnic group, had the highest percentage of population vaccinated, with 22% receiving at least one shot.
Overall, 311,904, or 39% of those currently eligible to be vaccinated in New Mexico, have received one shot, and about 19%, or 153,811 people, have received two.
Further reinforcing the appearance of disparity regarding Hispanics is the vaccination rate in the state’s second most populous county, Doña Ana, in southern New Mexico.
That county, which is about 68% Hispanic and home to Las Cruces, has the fourth-lowest percentage of residents vaccinated of any of the state’s 33 counties.
Only Eddy, Chaves and Torrance counties are lower, according to the most recent state data. Two other counties with sizeable Hispanic populations, Santa Fe and Valencia, ranked in the bottom seven, with less than 17% of residents vaccinated, according to the latest DOH data.
Doña Ana County Commission Chairman Manuel Sanchez told the Journal on Thursday he believes the low vaccination rate in his county isn’t due to lack of interest or socio-economic obstacles, but because the state isn’t sending enough vaccine doses to the area.
“We’re trying every way we can to get people registered and vaccinated,” Sanchez said. “All our local leaders are getting emails and calls from constituents saying, ‘Why aren’t we getting a larger share? Why aren’t we getting more people vaccinated in Doña Ana County?’ ”
Sanchez said local officials, anticipating some people might not have computer access, have set up a local phone line for residents who might need help registering through the DOH vaccine website. The helpline number is 575-528-5119.
The state is urging New Mexicans to register for vaccines at the website cvvaccine.nmhealth.org or by calling a state hotline. (The number is 1-855-600-3453 – press option 0 for vaccine questions and then option 4 for tech support.)
Some providers are also independently scheduling vaccinations for people who meet the current state criteria, which includes people over 75, and those 16 and older with an underlying medical condition. Medical personnel, people in congregate settings and first responders have first priority.
About 632,400 people, less than half of those aged 16 and older in New Mexico, have signed up on the state registration site and are expecting to be notified when and where they can get a shot. The state uses a randomized process to make appointments.
So far, of 306,721 total primary shots administered statewide, 7%, or 21,846 initial doses, have gone to Doña Ana County residents. About 10% of the state’s population lives in the county.
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima told the Journal on Thursday, “It looks like the state is doing the best it can (to deliver doses of the vaccine).”
He appointed a vaccine task force more than a month ago to make preparations for the day when the vaccine flow “starts coming in really fast.” The task force is also being asked to “reach out to various sectors or communities who might be hesitant to be vaccinated.”
Las Cruces assistant city manager Eric Enriquez said vaccination promotion will include inserting flyers in utility bills and putting advertising wraps on buses. The joint effort includes New Mexico State University, the Doña Ana Community College and Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, which has about 75 students prepared to give shots in the arm.
Asked this week about the low number of Hispanics vaccinated statewide, DOH secretary designate, Dr. Tracie Collins, responded, “Basically, we’re working to address equity in the state, and we need to keep looking at the numbers and evaluating what are the factors that are influencing vaccine uptake, vaccine access and, as we begin to move forward, our vaccine equity plan will be able to address these concerns, and get more New Mexicans vaccinated across all races and ethnicities.”
The DOH relies on self-reporting of ethnicity that occurs during registration for the vaccine, Collins added.
According to data reported Thursday:
• Blacks ranked last in New Mexico, with 9% partially vaccinated and less than 5% fully vaccinated out of a reported population of 36,934.
• At the top are American Indian or Alaska Native, which show 22% of a New Mexico population reported as 145,589 have received an initial dose, with 9% fully vaccinated.
• In the Asian or Pacific Islander category, 10% have been fully vaccinated out of a population the DOH reported as 31,147.
• Some 20,000 others vaccinated in the state either reported another race, or their ethnicity was unknown.
• Of those testing positive for the virus in New Mexico, about 44% were Hispanic, and 1,385 Hispanics have died, representing about 39% of COVID-19 deaths.
• About 29% of the deaths were people identified as white, with Native Americans accounting for 28% of New Mexico’s coronavirus deaths.
• Statewide, about 49% of New Mexicans are Hispanic, compared to some 37% who are white/Anglos, according to census and other national data.
The trend of disproportionate vaccination rates in New Mexico mirrors national trends, with Hispanic and Black populations continuing to receive smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their share of coronavirus cases and deaths, and compared to their proportions of the total population.
President Biden has stressed racial equity in vaccine distribution and has appointed a COVID-19 equity task force.
In a recent town hall meeting, Biden said he believes access is a problem and hopes to provide mobile vans to go into underserved neighborhoods to vaccinate populations there. He also advocates mass vaccination centers, such as stadiums or auditoriums, in a bid to get more shots in more arms.
Not everyone may know how to sign up to be vaccinated, Biden added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that, because people who are Black, Native American and Hispanic “have been found to have more severe outcomes from COVID-19 than persons who are white, careful monitoring of vaccination by race/ethnicity is critical to … ensure rapid detection of, and response to, potential disparities in COVID-19 vaccine administration. Jurisdictions should monitor the demographic characteristics of vaccinated persons to identify emerging disparities.”
The CDC also advises that communities that might need “focused immunization efforts” should be identified to provide equity and “ensure that no persons are left behind.”