January 22, 2021

Rio Rancho, other school vaccine events canceled

The state Department of Health explained the cancellation of COVID-19 events for educators and school staff by saying the state was not in the part of Phase 1B where essential frontline workers could be vaccinated.

A vaccination clinic for Rio Rancho Public Schools and others’ staff was scheduled for Friday, but those who had vaccinations scheduled at the event were informed that the DOH had said it could not go forward.

“Everyone’s disappointed and we have had some tears and people have been really distraught over this,” RRPS superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland told NM Political Report on Thursday.

Cleveland said the school district was informed on Wednesday night by DOH that the event, which would have vaccinated 1,800 school employees, could not go forward. And after asking for a reconsideration, they were told no again on Thursday.

She said that Bernalillo schools and area charter schools were also involved in the event.

RRPS is operating under a hybrid model, where elementary school students are in-class for part of the week and use distance learning for the rest of the week.

Cleveland said some have asked the school board to reconsider the in-person learning after the cancellation of the event.

Albuquerque Public Schools was also told a scheduled vaccination event for special education educators who are working with students in person would be canceled, according to KOAT-TV.

APS was informed on Tuesday that the event would be canceled.

A spokesman for DOH told NM Political Report that they could have done a better job of explaining why the event could not go forward.

“We also extend our sincere apologies to the affected communities in Sandoval County,” DOH spokesman Matt Bieber said in a written statement. “We understand that canceling this event is frustrating and disappointing for residents – but it is also necessary to ensure that [the] vaccine goes to those who are most exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Bieber said that it chose to vaccinate health care workers, seniors and New Mexicans with chronic health conditions to “do the most good—and save the most lives—with the vaccine doses we have.”

Other schools have had employees vaccinated. Just this week, Santa Fe Prep vaccinated staff. And late last year, Hobbs Municipal Schools vaccinated staff members, using excess doses.

“We don’t agree with this decision but we have had a good working relationship with [DOH],” Cleveland said. She said they would be ready when the state allows school districts to begin vaccinating staff.

As of Thursday, the state had received 203,825 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and administered 162,995 of those doses, either on the first or second shot. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control, New Mexico is among the best states for vaccinations per capita.