December 14, 2020

First vaccine rolls out in New Mexico Monday

The first  batch of COVID-19 vaccines have already arrived in New Mexico.

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe received its first shipment of the first COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

Christus St. Vincent was one of 145 hospitals in the country to receive the vaccine Monday, according to the hospital’s Facebook page. The hospital began inoculating its hospital workers the same day.

Trucks rolled out early Tuesday morning from a state Department of Health warehouse carrying 7,800 doses to smaller, rural hospitals around the state, according to DOH.

Lovelace Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval said Lovelace Hospital would receive the vaccine Tuesday and would start inoculating front line health care workers Wednesday morning.

Sandoval, along with two other Albuquerque hospital administrators—University of New Mexico Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Irene Agostini and Presbyterian Chief Patient Safety Officer and Medical Director of Infection Control Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman—spoke to reporters through social media Monday morning.

Salvon-Harman said the state had coordinated with smaller, rural hospitals to receive the vaccine from the larger “hub” hospitals in a hub and spoke model. The vaccine requires two shots 21 days apart and ultra cold storage.

Sandoval said she has had contact with other states and she said their rolling out process would not be as smooth as New Mexico’s efforts.

“We’re such a rural state with many facilities. The state is organizing and creating this hub and spoke model. It’s remarkable. It’s worth noticing,” she said.

Sandoval said the hospitals are relying on the state to provide ultra cold storage during the distribution.

All three administrators emphasized that the vaccine will not end the need to wear masks, wash hands and social distance.

“You can contribute to what we’re doing at this time. Every person can do this. Bring the numbers down. Make a difference for patients needing care,” Sandoval said.

Agostini said all hospitals in the state are over 100 percent capacity. Sandoval said residents “cannot relax.”

“Our personal decisions will impact our hospitals two weeks, four weeks down the road,” Sandoval said.

Health care workers will continue to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) after being vaccinated, the administrators said.

The state is set to receive 17,500 doses this week. Sandoval said the distribution to Lovelace Hospital workers will start with frontline health workers who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

Although some questions remain, such as whether the vaccine will be a one-time inoculation against the type of coronavirus raging across much of the globe, or if people will need to get an annual shot, similar to the flu vaccine, is still unknown, the administrators said.

But Agostini said that, for those who are worried about the vaccine’s safety, it is considerably safer than catching COVID-19.

“The risk of COVID is awful. Whether you’re young or old, you can die of COVID. We don’t know all the long term effects of COVID,” she said.

Sandoval, Agostini and Salvon-Harman all said they would take the vaccine but as administrators, they will be in line to receive it later in the process than the frontline workers.

Updated with information from the state Department of Health.