The New Mexico Department of Health announced the state reached another major vaccination threshold, with 75 percent of residents age 18 or older having received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. New Mexico health officials have been pushing for more New Mexicans to become vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Wednesday, 66 percent of Mexicans age 18 or older completed their vaccination series (either with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines). “This is an important milestone – three-quarters of New Mexico adults have now received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly two-thirds have completed their vaccination series,” DOH Acting Secretary Dr. David R. Scrase said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 66.7 percent of New Mexicans have received at least one dose, the eighth-most of any state, and 58.5 percent are fully vaccinated, the 11th-most of any state. Like in states throughout the country, COVID-19 has spread quickly because of the spread of the Delta variant.
Also on Wednesday, the state reported 878 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, with four additional recent deaths related to COVID-19.
A number of elected officials, including New Mexico’s governor and both of the state’s U.S. Senators, encouraged the private sector to implement vaccination policies for employees. The state has implemented a vaccine requirement for employees. Employees who don’t get vaccinated will need to have regular tests. “A willingness on the part of private sector leaders to take the initiative here in New Mexico will keep your workforce safer, boost consumer confidence and help guarantee that our steady economic progress is not needlessly endangered or reversed,” the letter states. The letter cites increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and the fact that the vast majority of deaths in the last six months among those who are unvaccinated.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order on Thursday that will require all state employees to be either vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing. The move, which starts on August 2, comes as vaccine cases statewide grow and as the state recommends all New Mexicans wear masks in public indoor settings.
State employees who are not vaccinated must wear a facemask while working indoors and submit a negative COVID-19 test at least every two weeks. Those who do not, the announcement said, will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include termination. Health and elected officials nationwide have been promoting vaccinations as rates slowed in recent months. In New Mexico as of Wednesday, 72.6 percent of those 18+ have received at least one dose of vaccine and 64.5 percent are fully vaccinated.
A top state health official said he believed all counties in New Mexico could be at the green or turquoise level by the end of May. “Maybe I shouldn’t even say that, but my way of thinking, we will be an almost completely green and turquoise state by the end of May at the latest,” Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said. This all comes as Scrase said the state is finalizing a new red-to-green tier system, which he said could be ready as early as in two weeks, for the next red-to-green update. With New Mexico’s new red-to-green status, 14 counties are in the turquoise level, including Santa Fe County, three are in green, 15 counties are in yellow, including the other four large population counties, and Colfax county is in the red level. Counties at the turquoise level have the least restrictions related to COVID-19, while the county in red is in the most restrictive.
As you surely know, this country’s covid vaccination effort has been plagued by major birth pangs: registration snafus, poor communication, faulty data and a scant supply of vaccine — all exacerbated by inequitable allocation, alleged political favoritism and unseemly jockeying for shots. Still, as of Friday, over 118 million shots had gone into arms, and about 42 million people, 12.6% of the nation’s population, had been fully vaccinated. Nearly one-quarter of U.S. residents have had at least one dose. The vaccine rollout is finally ramping up — just as the deadly winter surge has ended, dramatically reducing infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths. President Joe Biden has promised enough vaccine for every adult in the country by the end of May and dangled the hope of a return to semi-normalcy by July 4.
The state of New Mexico announced on Friday that it would expand who is eligible to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to phases 1B and 1C, which includes virtually all New Mexicans ages 16 or older.
The new eligibility includes frontline essential workers, residents of congregate care facilities, New Mexicans aged 60 and older and other essential workers. Those who were eligible in previous phases will continue to be eligible, and the state says this means 1,620,000 New Mexicans out of the 1,680,605 New Mexicans 16 years of age or older. “By expanding the pool of New Mexicans eligible for vaccine, we can keep the momentum going and ensure that New Mexico remains one of the nation’s vaccination leaders,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to reach and vaccinate seniors and others in the early phases who have not yet received their shots.”
DOH said this was made possible because the state had provided at least one shot to 60 percent of those previously eligible. This includes about 73 percent of New Mexico residents aged 75 or older.
Major hospital systems in New Mexico say that they are prepared to administer many more COVID-19 shots as they become available. But the nature of the supply chain is not only out of their hands, it’s out of the hands of the state, which relies on distribution from the federal government. Department of Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said that, as of Sunday, the state had received 221,375 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government and administered 203,830, or over 90 percent. “New Mexico [has] the third-highest vaccine administration rate among all states in the country,” Collins said. “So we have a lot to be proud of.”
The limiting factor for New Mexico Collins said, echoing what health officials had said earlier, was available supply.