The New Mexico Department of Health announced Friday it has opened the door to more categories of people who are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

The agency also congratulated itself for having delivered more than a million doses of vaccine and for a No. 1 ranking in the nation for the percentage of its population that has received at least one dose.

“We’ve made extraordinary progress in a very short time,” Dr. Tracie Collins, Cabinet secretary of the Department of Health, said in a news release. “And we intend to keep going.”

New Mexico ranked No. 1 in the nation Friday in a vaccination tracking system operated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wall Street Journal. Providers in the state have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 31.4 percent of the population. Alaska was second, with 29.6 percent of its residents at least partially vaccinated.

Under new eligibility guidelines New Mexico health officials announced Friday, the state’s vaccine distribution program has been widened to include all “frontline essential workers,” such as grocery store staff; family caregivers; child care workers; law enforcement officers; firefighters; agricultural employees; public transit workers; residents of congregate facilities, such as community homes and detention centers; all New Mexicans 60 and older; and all other essential workers, including restaurant staff, retail workers, animal care providers and those in the auto service industry.

Previously, shots were primarily limited to health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, people 75 and older, educators and New Mexicans with underlying health conditions. Those groups continue to be prioritized.

Santa Fe resident Bob Ortiz, a 67-year-old retiree, said he is scheduled for a shot next week and his family members have been vaccinated.

He said he remained concerned, however, about the comparatively low percentage of Hispanics in New Mexico who have been inoculated.

Ortiz said he wasn’t criticizing the Department of Health for the statistics regarding Hispanics. “We’re just asking why.”

Ortiz added, “I think DOH is doing a good job. As we all know, because we’ve been around a while, some things happen unintentionally.”

Department of Health statistics late Friday afternoon indicated 23.7 percent of Hispanics had received one shot, compared to 32.7 percent of whites. Only 18.5 percent of Black residents had gotten a shot, but 35.6 percent of Native Americans had received one, the statistics indicated.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said early this month the state has created a program in which it takes about 25 percent of the vaccine off the top of its available doses and applies that to communities with higher rates of the virus. The formula for the “vaccine equity program” includes data on income status, race, ZIP code and other factors.

Dr. Wendy Johnson, medical director of La Familia Medical Center, a publicly supported community health clinic in Santa Fe that serves many low-income people, said about 75 percent of its patients are Hispanic.

The clinic doesn’t inquire about immigration status and serves uninsured people, she said.

Johnson cited possible reasons for a lower vaccination rate among Hispanics in the state: Some face language barriers, she said, and don’t have access to technology required to registered for the vaccine, or they worry about revealing their immigration status to health care providers.

Department of Health spokesman David Morgan said the disparity in vaccine distribution among racial groups will narrow with the wider eligibility guidelines and acquisition of more vaccine doses.

Meanwhile, Anne and Frank Rivas, 68 and 74, respectively, had waited long enough. They drove to Amarillo, Texas, on Friday and received their first coronavirus shots at the civic center there.

Numerous Santa Fe residents say they have done this.

“We left at five in the morning,” Anne Rivas said. “There was no line. We walked right in. We were in and out in about 20 minutes.”

She said she and her husband are fortunate. Some people can’t get off work, she said, some don’t have the income to make a trip like that, and some generally have had little access to health care for years.

“This is kind of where income and privilege come in for us,” she said. “Because we could make that drive.”

(12) comments

Lee DiFiore

This is nothing more than a cheap, tawdry publicity stunt designed to make the governor and her stooges look good. Two days back the New Mexican had an article that said according to NMDOH, 28% of NM seniors over 75 have yet to be vaccinated. If we haven't given the shot to the most vulnerable of the oldies, why do we need to open up to more categories?

Kiki Martinez

I agree there has been A LOT of confusion regarding the vaccination here in NM. What would really help is if the New Mexican when reporting stories about the vaccine would include the websites and phone numbers where people can obtain true and correct information. Also it would be a great help if the Governor's office would answer their phone instead of just having a voicemail box that no one bothers to respond to!! The Governor's office should be the first line of available service to the public!

Sheila Hartney

There needs to be some kind of transparency to who exactly is getting notified to get the shot. I find it hard to believe that more than 30 percent of New Mexicans, 35 percent of Santa Fe County residents are older, sicker, or more vaccine worthy than I am. 72 years old, serious heart attack in December and I have no clue whatsoever when I might get it. I know too many people who have somehow skirted the Dept of Health and gotten the vaccine. I feel as if I'm the only one playing by the rules. Please, please, find a way to let us know where we actually are in the line.

Chris Mechels

What they don't tell you is that the shots are going to those other than those with "priority". NM is NOT following the CDC Guidelines, but doing whatever the Governor decides after her morning coffee(s).

This is simply government by fiat, and political whim.

We'd do better with a lottery system, rather than this utter confusion. The DOH website shows that the +75s have higher priority than others. In fact, as shown at the Dashboard; that is simply not true.

We are being lied to, over and over again. Saying one thing, while doing another, and changing the rules from day to day. Seems to be the Governor's style, in all her dealings, which creates chaos.

Our media seems uninterested in this problem... as usual.

Paul Davis

For somebody as willing to throw around accusations of lying, you're getting pretty close yourself. The link you've provided shows clearly:

* the highest priority was always declared to be healthcare workers

* the next highest priority was, collectively: 75+, education, chronic conditions

* of 80k healthcare workers, 50k have been vaccinated

* of 100k 75+, 56k have been vaccinated

All of this is entirely inline with CDC guidelines, as described at

"CDC recommends that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be allocated to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. This is referred to as Phase 1a."

"CDC recommends that in Phase 1b and Phase 1c, which may overlap, vaccination should be offered to people in the following groups. "

It then goes on to describe the suggested composition of Phase 1b and 1c, including, surprise, "Frontline essential workers", "People aged 75 years and older" (1b), "People aged 65—74 years", "People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions" and "Other essential workers" (1c)

NM has been following more or less exactly this plan. I don't know what you're reading that could possibly make you think otherwise.

* of 61k education, 19k have been vaccinated

* of 285k chronic, 67k have been vaccinated

Chris Mechels

Paul, what the heck are you up to, just trying to disrupt?? Your numbers are out of date, by a large amount. I provided a link, use it... and use current numbers.

As for following CDC guidance, you would have us believe that phases 1B and 1C are equivalent. they're not. CDC simply means they might overlap at some point, as they are adjacent. 75+ HAS priority is the CDC guidance, and in the NM DOH guidance.

The problem with the "chronic conditions" is that there is not control, and anyone can declare CC to get priority, and they did. What did DOH expect.

The result, with the DOH allowing CC to compete with +75, the CC is taking the vaccine, while the +75 is still waiting.

Are you some kind of shill? You're misrepresenting the facts and the data that I supplied in serious ways. Are you just part of the lies.

Paul Davis

The numbers I cited are directly from your link. I rounded to the nearest 1k in each case.

The quotes from the CDC are taken directly from the CDC link I provided.

If you're going to try to make a numbers based case, you'd better have the numbers on your side. The best you could say is that a larger absolute number of chronic cases have been vaccinated (which is true). But as a percentage of the total class, more 75+ people have been vaccinated, and it's not unreasonable to argue that the rate matters more than the absolute numbers.

Chris Mechels

At should you care, the description of Phase 1B say "in order of priority". IF they followed this, it would essentially be the same as the previous Phase 1B and Phase 1C plan. But, they are now ignoring the "order of priority" and have dished out 67k shots to chronic applicants, while I wait. You can be a "chronic" applicant if you are a SMOKER!!! See So, at 81, I get to compete with SMOKERS. This is NOT what the CDC guidance envisions.

The only way your argument tracks, at all, is because you confabulate Phase 1B and Phase 1C. Bottom line; 25k of the "highest priority" 75+ applicants have NOT been vaccinated, while 67k of the lower priority Chronics, including smokers, have been.

What is you point anyway. How can you defend, with your double talk, this horrible muck up?? You seem like a DOH attorney, spreading confusion.

It would be more just, and a lot less purely political, and confusing, to just have a lottery. Out walking today, ran into a couple neighbors, who are back from getting their Covid shots, in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the smokers have priority.

Paul Davis

From the CDC link I posted: "CDC recommends that in Phase 1b and Phase 1c, which may overlap,...."

I appreciate that you disagree with the details of vaccination implementation in NM. I'm not absolutely convinced that it's been done in the best possible way either, quite frankly. But I also get even more irritated by people describing what has happened and what is happening in such hyperbolic terms as you keep using. Writing as if the CDC guidelines define some absolute fixed process is misleading. Writing as if anyone knows "the best" process is misleading. We are all (citizens, politicians, medical care personnel) are grappling with incomplete and changing information. Your righteous indignation reads as if NM has somehow veered off the one true path is misleading.

I wonder how the folks in Colorado who have not yet been vaccinated (29% in CO versus 35% vaccinated in NM) feel about NM residents coming up and getting "their" vaccines. I wonder what you'd be writing if Texans or Arizonans (two states significantly behind NM in overall vaccination) were coming to NM to get vaccinated.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't have any connection to NM government.

Ernest Green

The doh information as provided contradicts the statements you're making here. This is either a rather poor misinterpretation of the data or dishonesty with an intent to mislead on a rather important issue of public health. The concluding thought is then to cast blame at a third party. Have some self-respect Mr Mechels.

Chris Mechels

Mr. Green. There is nothing wrong with my data, or facts. I provide a link to the facts that I reference. Who the heck are you anyway, some DOH employee? I'm still waiting for my shot, at age 81, while those at a lower priority are gobbling them up. Look at the numbers, and then reply from some basis, not just your silly opinion.

Jennifer Johnson

“ Providers in the state have administered at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 31.4 percent of the population.” If this percentage is only for those administered by the state, what is the percentage that includes those who received theirs out of state?

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