Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – More than 1 million New Mexicans have now received at least one vaccine dose – a significant milestone as the state pushes to vaccinate 60% of its adults against COVID-19 by the end of June.
It means the state would reach the target if every person who’s already received one shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine returns for their second dose. The third vaccine, Johnson & Johnson, requires only one shot.
Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said New Mexicans can be proud of the progress they’ve made.
But it’s critical, he said, for people to return for their second shot if they still need it or to book their appointment to start vaccination, especially as a way to protect people who don’t have the option of getting the shot, such as children 11 and under.
“We have accomplished a lot – you can see our state really starting to pick up and thrive,” Mitchell said in an interview, “but we can’t stop now.”
The state crossed the million-person threshold Monday when the Department of Health updated its vaccine tally to reflect the most recent shots administered.
The department intends to lift capacity restrictions on New Mexico businesses once 60% of the state’s adults are fully vaccinated.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said the state is on track to reach its goal by the end of June, though it could happen even earlier, depending on the pace of vaccinations.
“This is great news,” Department of Health spokesman Matt Bieber said of the vaccine numbers, “because it means that New Mexicans have the power to decide how fast we get there – and every time one of us gets vaccinated, we’re one step closer.”
New Mexico ranks high
As it stands now:
• 1,007,687 people in New Mexico have received at least one dose, or 60% of the population 16 and older.
• 805,923 people are fully vaccinated, or 48% of the adult population.
New Mexico remains among the top states in vaccinations. It ranked No. 6 – behind a collection of Northeastern states and Hawaii – for the number of doses administered per capita, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By another standard – the share of vaccines administered out of the doses delivered – the state ranked first, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data.
The vaccine is free and available without the need for insurance. Appointments can be scheduled at vaccineNM.org.
The Pfizer vaccine had been cleared for anyone 16 and older. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday cleared the shot for kids as young as 12.
Dr. Tracie Collins, who heads the state Department of Health, has urged parents in New Mexico to register their children ages 12 to 15 so they can get the shot as soon as the CDC granted final approval.
Mitchell said the vaccine is incredibly effective among children in the new age range and will be a critical way to protect them at school. He said he has registered one of his own children for the vaccine.
“This is a chance to really help your kids,” Mitchell said.
Side effects worth it
As for those concerned about the side effects of the second shot, Mitchell said, it’s true that your arm could be more sore and you could have fever and chills. But it’s temporary and necessary, he said, to the get protection you need.
The Department of Health reported 570 new COVID-19 cases for three-day period that ended Monday – 157 of which were in Bernalillo County and 154 in San Juan County.
The state also reported eight more deaths, although only one of the fatalities was recent. The state has been adding deaths from previous months to the tally as medical investigators work through a backlog and determine which deaths were related to COVID-19.
The state’s virus-related death toll now stands at 4,106.
The number of coronavirus patients in state hospitals is 143, in line with the recent average.
Gaps still remain
Despite the state’s progress, gaps remain in the vaccination rate among racial and ethnic groups.
Black and Hispanic residents, for example, have consistently trailed other ethnic groups during the vaccine rollout.
The latest state data shows that 60% of Asian American or Pacific Islanders are fully vaccinated, 46% of whites, 38% of Native Americans, 36% of Hispanics, and 29% of Black or African American residents.
There are also broad gaps by county.
Los Alamos County, in northern New Mexico, leads the state, with 67% of its adults fully vaccinated. Roosevelt County in the east is the lowest, at 24%. Bernalillo County – the state’s most populous – is at 51% fully vaccinated, slightly ahead of the state average.
New Mexico’s vaccine equity plan calls for the use of walk-in clinics and mobile vaccination teams that travel the state to boost access to the vaccine among the communities hit hardest by COVID-19.
Mitchell, the Presbyterian doctor, said anyone with concerns about whether they should get a COVID-19 vaccine should talk to their health care provider.
A number of fears shared through social media have been “debunked multiple times,” Mitchell said.
People can take comfort in the fact that 150 million Americans have had at least one dose, health officials say, including the last two presidents, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
“It’s not like this is small sample size,” Mitchell said. “There’s no ambiguity. The scientific community across the world has been all over this.”