Vaccinated New Mexicans eligible for sweepstakes with $5 million grand prize

New Mexicans who are vaccinated and part of the state’s vaccinenm.org registration system will be entered in a sweepstakes with a chance to win part of a $10 million prize pool—including a $5 million grand prize. The Vax 2 the Max Sweepstakes is New Mexico’s version of an effort by states across the country to encourage vaccinations. Those who wish to be entered for the prizes must opt in at the state website. Those who enter must be 18 years of age or older. “Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do — for yourself, for your family and for your state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

Feds, state pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration

The state of New Mexico paused its distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of possibly related, very rare blood clots. The state made the announcement on Tuesday after recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Food and Drug Administration citing reports of six “rare and severe” blood clots out of the 6.8 million doses of the vaccine nationwide, a rate of less than one in a million. “New Mexico – like the federal government – is acting out of an abundance of caution,” New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “As we learn more, we will share that information.” 

The DOH Twitter account noted that the cases represent a tiny fraction of the Johnson & Johnson doses. “This move shows that the federal oversight process of vaccine safety and effectiveness is working,” according to DOH.

NM to open vaccines to all residents age 16+ on Monday

Beginning on Monday, April 5, all New Mexicans over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, entering the “phase 2” of the state’s vaccine distribution plan. This comes as New Mexico remains the leader on COVID-19 vaccine administration. As of Tuesday’s vaccination numbers, 44.2 percent of New Mexicans aged 16 or older have received at least one dose and 27.3 percent are fully vaccinated (either with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines). Even so, the state will continue to prioritize those in phases 1A, New Mexicans age 75 or older and those age 60 or older with a chronic condition. “President [Joe] Biden directed states to make all adults eligible for vaccine by May 1.

So you’re vaccinated against COVID. Now what?

n March 22, 2021

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.

State expands COVID-19 vaccine to nearly all residents

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.

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.

UNM to use The Pit as COVID-19 vaccination site

The University of New Mexico has not hosted a basketball home game at the iconic University Arena, known as The Pit, since early in 2020. But the arena will soon have crowds again for a very different reason, as University of New Mexico Health announced it would use the property as a site for mass-COVID-19 vaccinations as the state moves to expand vaccinations. The plan is currently to start vaccinations at the site on Jan. 19. UNM Hospitals Chief Executive Officer Kate Becker said UNM Health said “vaccination is the key to getting past this pandemic.” 

She estimated the facility would be able to administer 1,680 doses of the Pfizer vaccine per day, then ramp up to double that number, nearly 3,400, when those who are vaccinated need their second shot of the vaccine.

DOH, hospital leaders talk about COVID-19 vaccine rollout, COVID-19 spread

As New Mexico looks to move to phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, nearly 400,000 New Mexicans have signed up to get their name on the list, Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said in a press conference Monday. As of Monday, and citing information from 81 percent of providers, Collins said the state had received more than 170,000 doses from the federal government—despite a rocky process on the federal level—and administered 78,143 of those doses, including more than 30,000 in the last week. Those who qualify for a vaccination “will receive a notification when a vaccine is available at a nearby location” and be able to set up an appointment, Collins said. She also said that the state was working to hire more employees for the state’s vaccine call center to avoid long wait times or, which happened at times last week, the inability for some to even connect to the call center. She said the state’s goal was to have more capacity than the needs for calls.

State moves to phase 1B of vaccination plan

The state Department of Health released its plan on further vaccination efforts in the state, saying the state moved past phase 1A, which featured vaccinating frontline healthcare workers and residents and employees at long term care facilities, to phase 1B. Under phase 1B, those 75 years of age or older, those 16 or older with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk from COVID-19, frontline essential workers who cannot work remotely, educators and other school employees and vulnerable populations such as those at congregate care facilities are now eligible to join those part of phase 1A in getting vaccinations. “DOH is pleased to release New Mexico’s vaccination plan – and to provide the clarity that New Mexicans seek about this critical effort,” Department of Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said. The department said Collins would have further remarks in a remote press conference on Monday. 

Earlier this week, Collins said exact numbers were not available because not all providers had reported their vaccination numbers, but the state estimated that about 60 percent of the 106,500 doses the state received from the federal government had been administered. At the same time, DOH announced who would be eligible under phase 1C and phase 2 of the state’s vaccination plan.

NM part of Pfizer’s pilot program for COVID-19 vaccine

While widespread distribution is still months away, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that New Mexico would be one of four states to participate in a pilot delivery program for the distribution of its COVID-19 vaccine, though this does not mean the state will receive doses of the vaccine before other areas. Pfizer announced earlier this month that a preliminary analysis found that the vaccine was over 90 percent effective in preventing illness. New Mexico—along with Rhode Island, Texas and Tennessee—will take part in the pilot program, which will not include any early distribution of the vaccine. “The four states included in this pilot program will not receive vaccine doses earlier than other states by virtue of this pilot, nor will they receive any differential consideration,” Pfizer said in its announcement. The pilot program is designed to “help us prepare for broader vaccine deployment in the near future, subject to authorization or approval, as we work to address this urgent public health need,” according to Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Pfizer Pio Group President Angela Hwang.