All NM residents 16 and over eligible for vaccine starting Monday - Albuquerque Journal

All NM residents 16 and over eligible for vaccine starting Monday

Walgreen’s pharmacy technician Madalyn Dankocsik administers the second dose Covid-19 vaccine to John Salazar at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in this February file photo. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

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All New Mexicans 16 years and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination beginning Monday, accelerating a state vaccination program that at one time predicted the general public would have to wait until summer for a shot.

The universal eligibility comes less than four months after the state began rolling out the vaccine in phases because of limited supply. Two weeks ago, the state lifted vaccine eligibility restrictions on all but a group of about 60,000 New Mexicans – those between the ages of 16 and 59 without underlying health conditions and who did not otherwise qualify through their jobs.

The state continues to rank first nationwide in the highest percentage of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration data tracker.

President Joe Biden had been urging states to make vaccinations available to all adults by May 1, so “New Mexico will meet that mark nearly a month early,” said state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins in a news release. DOH officials had predicted some months back that the general public wouldn’t be eligible until summer.

But shipments of three different vaccines have surged in recent weeks, with the state vaccine dashboard showing 1.4 million doses received from the federal government, and 1.2 million administered as of Wednesday. The state expects “meaningful increases” in the vaccine supply over the coming weeks, with significant increases in the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the news release states.

New Mexico is lifting all restrictions on vaccinations for those 16 and over at a time when less than half of New Mexicans, or 755,452 people, have received at least one dose.

And of those registered with the state for a vaccine appointment, about 288,000 are waiting to be at least partially vaccinated, according to the state vaccine dashboard.

Back in mid-December, New Mexico imposed a priority system to immunize those deemed most at risk of contracting the coronavirus, focusing on front-line health care workers, those 75 and older and people with chronic health conditions. With the addition of the last category of New Mexicans, considered the general public, the state will still prioritize those from earlier categories for appointments through its centralized registry, at, said DOH officials.

The state’s vaccination dashboard, which includes federally-administered doses, showed 45% of New Mexicans 16 and older have received at least one dose as of Wednesday, and 28% are fully vaccinated.

In addition to doses administered by the state, the federal data reflects vaccines given through the Indian Health Service, Veterans Administration, Department of Defense and U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

The state Department of Health estimates there are 1.68 million people ages 16 and over in the state who could receive the Pfizer brand. Two other companies, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, restrict their vaccines to those 18 and over.

The race to vaccinate comes as some states have noted an increase in new COVID-19 cases. In New Mexico on Wednesday, the state reported its highest case count in more than seven days, at 277 cases. But the rolling seven-day average was 204. Five additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported.

The state adopted a centralized registration system to match eligible New Mexicans to appointments, but says about 40% of vaccinations are given outside the registration system through other providers, who must report their vaccinations to a statewide immunization information system. In recent weeks the state has put an emphasis on vaccinating the elderly and senior citizens, offering an easier way to make an appointment through the state registry Monday and offering vaccinations to home-bound seniors, among other outreach programs.

Several hundred registrants 75 and up have scheduled vaccines since the state announced they would not need to provide an “event code” in order to get an appointment. Once receiving an invitation to schedule an appointment, they can go online and schedule an appointment at a location convenient to them.

“We expect more (to be scheduled) when we send proactive messages to 75+ registrants in the coming days,” said Matt Bieber, DOH director of communications.

He said the state hopes to “move away from event codes and allow self-scheduling for more groups in the near future.”

Asked how long it might take to get an appointment for a vaccination, Bieber said, “When we get to self-scheduling, the wait will be very short (or non-existent). Until that time, it’s hard to pin down an exact wait time – it depends on local demand, how many folks in a given area are in the early phases, and other variables.”

The state’s vaccination progress can be found on two different dashboards, one reflecting all doses given statewide, and the other focused on those who have registered with the state.

In the latter category:

• More than 21,000 of those who registered with the state in the 75 and up group still are awaiting at least an initial shot, according to the state data. About 79% have received at least one shot.

• About 85% of health care workers in Phase 1B have received at least one dose.

• About 84% of educators, staff and early childhood professionals in the Phase 1B category are at least partially vaccinated.

• About 74% of those with chronic conditions also in the Phase 1B category are at least partially vaccinated.

• More than 54% of front-line essential workers in the Phase 1B category are at least partially vaccinated.

• About 39% of those 60 and older, and other essential workers in the 1C category have received at least one shot.

Meanwhile, the state announced the immediate availability of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by appointment only in Clovis. Those interested should visit the state registration site to make an appointment for the two-day vaccination event that begins today.

The clinic is for those 18 and older, but seniors are encouraged to schedule appointment for the first-come, first-serve vaccine clinic. Those who need help or who don’t have internet access can call 1-855-600-3453, the DOH said.

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