Federal judge denies injunction for NM public health order

A federal judge ruled earlier this week that two women who filed a lawsuit against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham did not adequately show how a state emergency public health order requiring vaccines for certain activities violated their rights. 

U.S District Court Judge Martha Vásquez denied a motion filed by the two women, which asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop one of the state’s public health orders that require New Mexico State Fair attendees and public health workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.  

Vásquez wrote that the two plaintiffs failed to show how they would face irreparable harm if the court did not issue an injunction. 

“To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, Plaintiffs are required to prove that they are substantially likely to succeed on the merits of their claims, that they will suffer irreparable injury if the Court denies the requested injunction, that the balance of harms weighs in their favor, and that the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest,” Vásquez wrote. “Plaintiffs fail to satisfy their burden as to any, let alone all, of these factors.”

One plaintiff works as a nurse for Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque and the other is a mother of children who were set to show livestock at the New Mexico State Fair. Both women claimed that the public health order violated their state and federal constitutional rights. Both women also maintained that they should not be forced to get a COVID-19 vaccine that is approved under an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Shortly after the suit was filed, the FDA fully authorized the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. 

“Accordingly, the provisions of the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act] quoted by Plaintiff, which are applicable only to medical products under an [Emergency Use Authorization], are not applicable to the administration of the Pfizer vaccine to individuals 16 years of age and older,” Vásquez wrote.

New lawsuit claims NM public health order violates rights

The governor of New Mexico and one of her cabinet secretaries is again facing a lawsuit after issuing a COVID-19 public health order requiring healthcare workers, among other professions like teachers or school staff, to be vaccinated unless they qualify for an exemption. The order, which was issued on Aug. 18, also requires that anyone attending the upcoming New Mexico State Fair be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The day after the order was issued, two women filed a class action suit against the state, arguing that the order violated their right to refuse a vaccine that has not been fully approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. 

Rio Rancho resident Jennifer Blackford, is a registered nurse with Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque who has not been vaccinated for COVID-19. According to a signed affidavit, Blackford said that based on her medical training and her own independent research, she has decided not to get a COVID-19 vaccination. 

“It is my right to choose not to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and it violates my right to bodily integrity under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution to require that in order to keep my job I must inject an experimental [Emergency Use Authorization] vaccine into my body,” Blackford’s affidavit reads. 

Emergency Use Authorization is an expedited process, but is not described as “experimental” and is still made after clinical trials with “rigorous standards” according to the Federal Drug Administration. Even without the public health order in question, Presbyterian recently announced it would require all of its staff to be vaccinated. 

Talisha Valdez is a resident of Union County and the mother of two daughters who had planned on showing livestock in a 4-H competition at the state fair.

Governor, others ask private sector to implement vaccination policies

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.

NM hits 60 percent vaccination mark

The state of New Mexico reached two milestones in its vaccination efforts this week: over 1 million people fully vaccinated and 60 percent of all residents age 16 or older fully vaccinated. The numbers came as the state announced it would fully reopen businesses to maximum capacity on July 1, more than a year after the state limited capacity. Currently, 60.2 percent of all New Mexicans age 16 or older are vaccinated. The state breached the 1 million mark as of its update on Monday on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, then reached the 60 percent mark on Wednesday. The state can have more people fully vaccinated in the coming weeks as well—with either two shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—as 68.7 percent of New Mexicans age 16 or older have received at least one shot. 

In addition to these numbers, 18.5 percent of New Mexicans age 12-15, or 20,616 total, have completed their vaccination series, with 27.2 percent with at least one shot. 

The rate of vaccinations varies widely by county.

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.