NM urges booster shots as virus cases spike - Albuquerque Journal

NM urges booster shots as virus cases spike

Teri Heynekamp, left, and a group of Lovelace nurses and medical technicians treat an ICU patient suffering from the damaging effects of COVID-19 in October. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico health officials are pointing to waning immunity from COVID-19 vaccines and unvaccinated individuals spreading the virus as reasons the state is grappling with unrelenting cases and hospitalizations.

The state reported 1,530 new virus cases Wednesday.

David Scrase, acting Health Department secretary, said Wednesday that 539 people were hospitalized with the virus.

“Things are not going well in our hospitals,” Scrase said during a virtual briefing, adding that getting vaccinated is the best way to alleviate stress on health care systems. “… Someone having a heart attack right now may or may not have access to ICU care in New Mexico. And, frankly, as cases start rising again in other states, we may not find a bed there.”

The state also announced an additional 12 virus deaths, pushing the death toll to 5,215.

State epidemiology reports show that unvaccinated people accounted for 91% of virus deaths, 79% of virus hospitalizations and 71% of new cases in the past month.

As more vaccinated people experience “breakthrough infections,” Scrase said, changing the definition of fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from two doses to three “is under discussion.”

“I think, in another five months, we’ll have a lot more information,” he said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has expanded booster shot eligibility to all adults.

“We’re erring on the side of caution by presumptively leaning in, by making sure that all of us who can be vaccinated with a booster should do so,” Lujan Grisham said during the presentation.

About 292,000 residents over the age of 18 have received a booster dose, according to the NMDOH website.

Deputy Health Secretary Laura Parajón said the state is administering 65,000 vaccine doses per week, an “exciting” benchmark and the highest number since May.

“Full vaccination is still New Mexico’s first priority,” Parajón said.

Statewide virus spread is “absolutely going in the wrong direction,” said state epidemiologist Christine Ross, especially for school-aged children.

Pediatric virus cases accounted for 25% of New Mexico cases in the past week.

“We know that children are at low risk for serious outcomes, but they are not at zero risk,” Ross said. “These vaccines are safe and highly effective. This is the best tool to protect your kids, and to prevent onward transmission of the virus and to help us in the pandemic.”

Scrase said a 60-year-old man in the state has died from taking ivermectin. The anti-parasitic drug is not proven to treat or protect against COVID-19.

The man who died took a 150 mg dose intended for horses, which led to liver and kidney failure.

“If you’ve taken ivermectin, stop, and call the poison control center,” Scrase said.

The health officials urged caution in planning for upcoming holiday gatherings.

“Consider delaying any travel plans if you’re not fully vaccinated,” Ross said.


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