December 16, 2020

State Health Secretary-designate talks about the start of vaccine distribution in NM

State Health Secretary-designate Tracie Collins, in her second official day in the position, provided an update on the more-than 17,500 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine that have been sent to New Mexico, the first step in the massive undertaking to provide the new vaccine to the vast majority of state residents.

The current shipment, Collins said on Tuesday, “is being prioritized for frontline healthcare workers in hospital settings, starting with staff that are high- or medium-risk.” The principle, she said, was to provide doses “to those who are most at risk of exposure to infected people or infectious materials.”

Those who receive the Pfizer vaccine will need a second booster shot in four weeks.

The first vaccinations arrived in New Mexico and other states on Monday.

The current batch has gone to or is headed to over 30 hospitals, and each hospital will be responsible for administering the shots.

Collins said the state is still in the planning phases of deciding what groups will receive the vaccine next, though Collins said the Moderna vaccine would go to long-term care facilities.

“We expect additional vaccines to receive approval and additional shipments to arrive,” Collins said. 

A release of data on a COVID-19 vaccine by pharmaceutical giant Moderna on Tuesday showed promising data on the impact on COVID-19 and appears poised to receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the coming days or weeks.

She also acknowledged the difficulties posed by distributing the vaccine to rural and tribal areas.

She said most tribes and pueblos have opted to have the vaccine distributed through the federal Indian Health Service, though Acoma, Laguna and Picuris pueblos have each opted to receive their allocations through the state.

She said tribes and pueblos are among the priorities for the state.

Collins warned that even when vaccinated, people would still need to wear masks.

“While the vaccine prevents COVID infection, we’re still learning whether it prevents transmission,” Collins said. “This means that, as New Mexicans begin to get vaccinated, we still need to wear masks, maintain six-foot social distancing, wash our hands often and keep up with other COVID safe practices.”