The New Mexico Department of Health is encouraging women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to get vaccinated because COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications. DOH issued a statement Thursday reminding the public the importance of vaccinations against COVID-19 for pregnant people. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance that vaccines are safe for pregnant people. The overall risk for severe illness is low, according to the CDC, but pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to those who are not pregnant.
Severe illness can include hospitalization, intensive care, ventilator use or other breathing assistance and, possibly, death, according to the statement. The CDC issued a warning that pregnant people who contract COVID-19 are at an increased risk for preterm birth and could be at an increased risk for other adverse pregnancy outcomes comparable to pregnant people who do not contract COVID-19.
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.
Leaders from New Mexico’s largest healthcare systems had a message for New Mexicans: Get vaccinated. During a press conference Tuesday, they discussed the current surge in cases, which they all described as largely among those who remain unvaccinated. “Evidence shows that COVID-19 is now really a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales said. “In New Mexico, 93 percent of hospitalizations for COVID-19 are in the unvaccinated. In Presbyterian hospitals statewide, we’re experiencing a doubling of cases every week.”
A majority of New Mexico adults, 65.5 percent, were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, and over 53 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines have already arrived in New Mexico. Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe received its first shipment of the first COVID-19 vaccine Monday. Christus St. Vincent was one of 145 hospitals in the country to receive the vaccine Monday, according to the hospital’s Facebook page.
ByCaroline Chen, Isaac Arnsdorf and Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica |
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. Despite President Donald Trump’s promises of a vaccine next month and pundits’ speculation about how an “October surprise” could upend the presidential campaign, any potential vaccine would have to clear a slew of scientific and bureaucratic hurdles in record time. In short, it would take a miracle. We talked to companies, regulators, scientific advisers and analysts and reviewed hundreds of pages of transcripts and study protocols to understand all the steps needed for a coronavirus vaccine to be scientifically validated and cleared for public use.