Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – An uptick in the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations last week helped carry New Mexico to a new milestone Wednesday – a 70.0% vaccination rate among adults.
The state hit the mark after seeing its strongest seven-day period of growth in vaccines administered since late August, according to Department of Health data.
New Mexico leads the region in adult vaccine doses administered per person and ranks fifth in the country among states.
In a public briefing, Deputy Health Secretary Laura Parajon called the 70% figure an “incredible milestone” as New Mexico combats the late-summer surge in cases.
Vaccination “is our best way out of this pandemic,” she said.
Parajon and her colleagues also shared some grim news, reporting 19 more COVID-19 fatalities. Deaths are continuing to increase, they said, following the surge in cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.
Acting Health Secretary David Scrase also said two patients died in New Mexico hospitals from overdoses of ivermectin, the anti-parasite drug that isn’t authorized for COVID-19 treatment.
He said he wasn’t sure where the patients got the drug. But they were taking it, Scrase said, in lieu of federally approved treatments – such as remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies – that have proven to be effective.
The state Poison Control Center has taken 17 calls this year about ivermectin exposure – 14 of them since Aug. 6, according to the Department of Health.
The uptick in vaccinations, meanwhile, comes as New Mexico imposes a mandate on hospital workers, and more employers require employees to get the shots.
Parajon shared data showing the number of vaccine doses administered in the week ending Sept. 17 grew faster than in any week since Aug. 27.
New Mexico has administered 156,576 doses for adults per 100,000 people – a higher rate than any state but Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 1.1 million adults in New Mexico have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series, or 70.0% of adult population.
“My deepest thanks to every New Mexican who has prioritized their health and the health of their community,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted Wednesday.
About 53.3% of New Mexicans 12 to 17 years old have completed their COVID-19 shots.
Parajon said the vaccine could be approved for children 5 to 11 by Halloween.
State Epidemiologist Christine Ross said New Mexico is seeing signs of a plateau or small decline in new cases, following a surge in late summer.
But new cases “are not sloping downward the last few days,” Scrase said. “We’re still concerned about our hospitals.”
Transmission of COVID-19 remains high in 29 of 33 counties in New Mexico, Ross said, based on a Department of Health analysis. Los Alamos is classified as having moderate transmission, the lowest level in the state.
Three counties – Santa Fe, Harding and Catron – have “substantial” transmission, the category between moderate and high.
Overall, New Mexico reported 719 new cases of the disease on Wednesday and 19 deaths – six of them adults from Bernalillo County. The official COVID-19 death toll is 4,719 state residents.
In a recent four-week period, people who weren’t fully vaccinated made up 86% of the COVID-19 deaths, 87% of the hospitalizations and 78% of the cases, according to report by the Department of Health.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have fallen 4% over the last week – from 375 a week ago to 359 on Wednesday.