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Heinrich makes stop at National Guard vaccination clinic

Kristina Zilm gets a shot of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at a National Guard complex in southeast Albuquerque. In the background, Sen. Martin Heinrich. D-N.M., talks about the Guard’s efforts in distributing vaccine. (Ryan Boetel/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A shot of COVID-19 vaccine was plunged into Kristina Zilm’s left arm inside a New Mexico National Guard gym Tuesday afternoon.

Just over her right shoulder, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., talked with Guard members about their efforts in distributing vaccines across the state.

The senator, during a visit to New Mexico, made his first public stop at a Guard complex on Wyoming Boulevard in southeast Albuquerque, where a vaccination clinic is set up in the building’s gymnasium.

Heinrich said he thinks the Guard’s efforts are one of the reasons New Mexico is leading the country by some measures of vaccine distribution. The state has been particularly efficient in how fast it delivers shots into people’s arms.

“I think this has been a critical piece for why our numbers are consistently above most states. It’s the level of implementation and logistics that the Guard brings to getting people vaccinated efficiently, and getting to difficult-to-reach communities in the state,” Heinrich said in an interview. “And it wasn’t like our health care system and the Department of Health weren’t already over-taxed.”

Victoria Ortiz, the officer in charge of the vaccination clinic, said the facility has administered more than 6,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

New Mexico on Tuesday continued to post a relatively low number of new COVID-19 cases.

The state reported 181 additional cases on Tuesday, which was below the seven-day average. The cases included 81 in Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous county, according to a DOH news release.

There were also eight additional COVID-19-related deaths reported, bringing the statewide toll to 3,960 since the start of the pandemic.

For the last week, New Mexico has averaged 199 new COVID cases and four deaths per day, according to a Journal analysis.

Heinrich said his efforts in terms of the pandemic are focused on connecting small businesses, such as restaurants, and local governments to relief money included in the COVID relief package that was passed by Congress and signed into law. A team in his office was organized to assist those efforts.

He said he’s also eager to see results of trials looking at how the COVID vaccine works on children. Currently, the vaccine is only available to people 16 and older.

“I want to see the Phase 3 trials wrapped up and I want to see the data processed as soon as possible. I think what we’re learning in those trials is that things look very good,” said Heinrich, who has a 14-year-old son. “As soon as we can get those results analyzed by the experts, confirm what we think we know, the sooner we’ll be able to get that whole cohort vaccinated. And that really takes a big load off our public schools.”

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