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People wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Amarillo Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas. Scores of New Mexicans have crossed the state line to get vaccinated at clinics in Amarillo, which offer the shot to anyone who shows up.

AMARILLO, Texas — John and Barbara Mikkelsen, retirees who are each over 75 and have medical conditions that put them at high risk of COVID-19, registered to receive the vaccine on the day the state of New Mexico announced it would begin rolling out doses.

So did Greg, an investment manager in his mid-60s, who also has health conditions, and his wife, Marie, in her mid-70s.

Margarita, an interior designer in her early 70s, registered for a vaccination that day, along with Anne, a designer in her mid-40s, and Alan, an entrepreneur in his early 50s.

These Santa Feans were among many who signed up early, eager to get their two-dose coronavirus vaccinations. But as the weeks dragged on with no news from the state Department of Health about when their turn was coming, their anxiety ratcheted up.

They decided to join scores of New Mexicans who were heading across the state line for vaccination clinics in Amarillo, Texas, where providers were inoculating anyone who arrived. However, on Wednesday, the center ran out of vaccine by noon, forcing some Santa Feans to return home without a shot. It did not receive another shipment until Friday.

Those able to get their shots at the center in recent weeks lauded its efforts.

“Once we got there, they didn’t ask us where we were from,” John Mikkelsen said. “Because it didn’t seem to matter … they’ll give you a shot.”

“It was super easy,” agreed Margarita. Like most local people who spoke about their vaccination trek to Amarillo, she asked to be identified only by first name out of privacy concerns and fear of possible backlash.

“Everyone was very nice, very orderly, she said. “And they didn’t care at all that we were from New Mexico.”

The Santa Feans who received their first dose in Amarillo plan to go back for their booster shot. They were given a date as soon as they received their first injection.

The Mikkelsens said they learned about the mass vaccination events in Amarillo from their doctor and decided to give it a try after the state of Colorado canceled a vaccination appointment they had scheduled there in late January. Vaccines in that state were only for Colorado residents, the message said.

“We didn’t need to be waiting around for another two weeks or two months or who knows how long to get the vaccine,” John Mikkelsen said.

After the 4½-hour drive to Amarillo, he and other Santa Feans said the process was efficient. Margarita said it took about two hours for her to park and get her shot.

“It moved very quickly,” she said. “And there was a total mix of ages.”

Casie Stoughton, the public health director for the Amarillo Civic Center, told Austin TV station KXAN in early January the site is one of Texas’ best vaccination centers.

“We practice this every year when we do our city immunization” — from annual flu shot clinics to H1N1 vaccinations, back when that pandemic hit in 2009, she said.

Mikkelsen was critical of New Mexico’s vaccine rollout. He said the state “has dropped the ball” when it comes to ensuring residents at the top of the priority list — including those over 75, like him and his wife — have access to the vaccine.



“Although, you read about how many people have gotten vaccinated in Santa Fe,” he added.

More than 40,000 people in Santa Fe County — well more than a quarter of the population — had received at least their first shot as of Friday, according to data from the state Department of Health. Its vaccination rate is one of the highest in the state.

Providers in New Mexico had administered nearly 320,000 of its 324,575 available doses by Friday, including almost 77,700 booster shots. More than 40 percent of the people who have registered for a vaccination in the state have received their first dose, the data shows.

“But I don’t know,” Mikkelsen said. “Why hadn’t we gotten ours here?

“My philosophy about what they’re trying to do in Texas is they’re just trying to save lives. I congratulate them,” he said.

Anne said she made the trip to Amarillo because she figured she wouldn’t be eligible for inoculation until the summer in New Mexico, due to her age.

When she heard Texas had started vaccinating people under 75, she was more than ready.

“I found out about Amarillo at 10 o’clock on Monday night and we left the next morning at 7,” Anne said. “I now know about 100 people who’ve gone to Amarillo for the vaccine.”

She added, “One of the people who went with me is a cancer survivor and has other underlying conditions that put her at risk.”

Alan, the local businessman who was vaccinated in Amarillo, said, “I had an ethical issue when I first heard about it. But then, after talking it over with my doctor, I came to the realization: Why wouldn’t I do it? It’s a no-brainer.”

Still, he spoke only on the condition that his full name would not be published.

“New Mexico is being methodical and strict about the vaccine, and that’s not a bad thing,” Alan said.

But he wasn’t willing to wait until late spring or summer for his shots.

“My doctor is of the opinion that the more people who get it, no matter what their age or whether or not they have any health issues — stop fussing with categorization and get needles into people’s arms,” he said. “It’s better for the country as a whole. It helps get us to herd immunity.”

Anne had similar thoughts. “After talking it over with other people — are we preventing other people who’re more vulnerable? ... I felt strongly that we weren’t taking the vaccine away from other people.”

“I didn’t feel I’d be taking away the shot from someone more worthy,” Margarita said. “I know people who’ve gamed the system. ... I feel better doing it this way than trying to jump the line the way other people have done here in town.”

(35) comments

Rod Oldehoeft

I'd like to read a substantive response from someone at NM DOH about this article and the attached comments.

Mike Johnson

They will never say anything that isn't happy talk and misleading lies about anything. This is all political, so MLG is calling the shots (forgive the pun) on how the categories were set up, and thus biased, unfair, and incompetent at getting the older most vulnerable people vaccinated first.

Carolyn DM

When did you say your move date is? You do absolutely nothing but whine and moan about NM. If your favorite Republican was elected Governor, you'd probably find something to be unhappy about. I can't even imagine continuing to live in a state that makes me so constantly angry and bitter. I hear Texas is on the brink of turning Blue. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to welcome you there. Other than that, your constant bitter old man whining got old years ago.

Mark Stahl

He’ll find the same things wherever he goes.

Gini Barrett

I agree.

Daniel Valdez

MLG is a disgrace to NM. There is no excuse for the elderly of NM not being able to receive their vaccinations. You can't blame Trump anymore!! And what happened to those $2000 stimulus checks Biden campaigned on???

Tom Ribe

Daniel, the republicans in Washington are blocking the $2000 stimulus checks. If you read the national news closely you'll understand that. To the GOP's credit, they want to target the checks to people who actually need them. On the other hand they are more interested in the interests of investors than in normal Americans. Biden is open to targeted checks. He is proving to be an excellent president.

Lee DiFiore

Every day you read stories or watch the news to hear how great NM is doing with its vaccination effort. But still the elderly with health conditions don't seem to make it to the front of the queue. A real head scratcher. Will we ever get to the bottom of this? Doubtful. The DOH only releases info that makes itself look good. As Barrack said, "elections have consequences". Keep voting dem for more vaccination chaos, shutdowns forever, 49th in everything, etc., etc., etc. Seems our sports teams and those needing the vaccine have found the answer in TX.

Linda Garrido

Yes. I registered with the DOH online-registration. I've received 2 Text messages from DOH thanking me for registering. The last one said there's been a gap between the need to vaccinate us and the supply of vaccine. I'll be 79 in mid-February...I don't have any other "pre-existing" conditions. I'm edging toward impatience. When will I get an appointment??????

Isabelle Sandoval

How is equity of vaccines already administered enforced in the selection process of essential workers, zip code, age, medical condition, sex, & race/ethnicity? A report of these categories of vaccines administered is necessary for effective communication.

B H

My husband and I are both 75 or older and registered immediately to get the vaccine. In addition, we both have serious conditions. We are both cancer survivors and one of us is getting immuno surpressants. And one of us has a progressive neurological disease.

We haven't received an appointment time and about a week ago, I met a woman in the waiting room of XRay New Mexico who worked for a company that is in charge of providing medical care to the prison. She never sees patients and she wasn't 75, but her employer had offered her a vaccination.

We would drive to Texas for the vaccine, but I would like to know how many of those who drive there would receive the vaccine. Were many turned away for the lack of a vaccine?

I would be willing to

Victoria Murphy

If you go to the Texas Covid Vaccine site map, scroll to Amarillo, click on the Orange HUB dot. It will tell you how many vaccines are available and whether it is 1st, 2nd or both available. Then go to the Amarillo Civic Center website. It will list the days and times they open for the vaccine distribution.

Margaret Eyler

And yet, so many Santa Feans hate TX. When are New Mexicans going to get their heads out of the sand and realize the states immediately bordering us are prospering? It’s almost like we’ve gotten some things...wrong...

B H

As with everything, we like some things about Texans and not other things. I and we like some Texans better than other Texans. Probably Texans feel the same way about us -- I am thinking.

Rene Nelson

It’s funny... after moving here from Texas, the number of negative comments we heard about New Mexicans having a beef with Texans was astounding. New Mexicans aren’t on Texan’s radar at all. You mention you’re from New Mexico, literally, no thoughts on it at all. Amarillo opens their doors to all for the vaccine because people are people, regardless of where you “hang your hat”.

Victoria Murphy

I am one who went to Amarillo with my husband and a friend. They were happy to have us and our nurse stated she had vaccinated about 25 people from Santa Fe the day before. Also people from Denver and larger Texas cities were coming to Amarillo. I am primary caregiver for my 90 year young mother and our friend for his 92 year young mother. We both had to run to the high school when we were informed we could register our mothers in person for their vaccines since neither had been called by DOH. FYI - the photo in the paper is not the room where people were waiting to get their vaccine, it is the post-shot room where they have you wait 15 minutes after to assure you don't have a reaction. The entire process took us an hour and 45 minutes from the time we arrived. Extremely well coordinated. Our nurse also told us they they want Santa Fe to be safe and opened up because they can't wait to come visit us again.

Chris Mechels

This just shows up our Governor, and her dysfunctional Dept of Health, as incompetents. No surprise there. Also, I have well connected friends getting the vaccine through their doctors. The DOH guidance tells us one thing, then does another. They are profoundly incompetent, and have been for a very long time, even back to the days when MLG was Secr of DOH, before Richardson removed her. Her incompetence shows in her Cabinet choices, and her overpaid staff, which is simply her campaign staff, now being paid with our tax dollars.

As always, Michelle is in campaign mode, and incompetent as Governor. Bingaman finally had enough, and left. The stench is pretty bad...

Tom Ribe

And what are you doing to help the situation Chris? You are the ever present armchair peanut gallery. Other than talk, what do you offer to help with this situation?

Chris Mechels

Tom, why the hack?? Didn't expect it from you. As to what I'm doing, I've been working for the last year on Rule Making issues. One of the big offenders is the Dept of Health. They, and another notable, the Dept of Education, have done a host of illegal rule making, using Emergency Rules, which allow for no public input. Many of these illegal rule makings involve reducing qualifications of providers, such as dropping the age of Nursing Home care givers from 18 yoa to 16 yoa. Again, no public input for what appears a dangerous changes, endangering the patients.

Also, still bird dogging the LEA Board, and getting some changes to police training and reform.

So, share what YOU have been doing??? I just don't get the hack job. I thought better of you. What's your problem.

Angel Ortiz

A couple of observations. Texas received 1.2 million doses of the vaccine. NM received around 95,000 doses. Huge difference. One more thought. Are those New Mexicans making the journey to Texas following quarantine restrictions upon their return to NM?

Margaret Eyler

A couple observations: NM got more doses of vaccine per its population than TX (pop 29 mil.). And who CARES if anyone is quarantining if you have masking, social distancing, closed restaurants and limited occupancies? But hey, I’m just going by the science.

Angel Ortiz

Thank you for your well thought out response. Really appreciate it. "Who cares who's quarantining"? Precisely the behavior that has the United States at the top of infections in the world. Texas is the 2nd highest number of infections in the country, so if you are planning to go to Texas try to think about what you could bring back with you. But hey, Texas seems to think that they are addressing their situation adequately. Just saying...

Elizabeth Allen

I feel that there is an important element that could use updating in the story. I too had many friends who went to Amarillo, and I wanted to go too. So I called Amarillo Department if Public Health directly. Yes, they welcome New Mexicans: there is no residency requirement. You do, however, have to meet Texas’s vaccine requirements. To be eligible you must be either over 65 or have a chronic condition that could make getting COVID more serious. “It’s an honor system,” the assistant director told me. “We are counting on people to tell the truth.” I hope this is helpful to people reading this and deciding whether to go.

Elizabeth Allen

Devon Jackson, happy to provide the name and number of that official for any additional reporting you may be doing.

Mike Johnson

I know many in NM that have done this, the NM system is broken, too many younger people getting shots, older people at the back of the line. NM incompetence on display.

Amy Earle

I don’t begrudge these people from making the trip given how poorly our DOH has managed vaccinations to date. Just yesterday a friend told me his 90 year old father is still waiting to be vaccinated. It is true that NM ranks near the top of using its supply of vaccine efficiently but there has also been quite a bit of line jumping and excuse making by the DOH for it. NM is a state with a lot of challenges. This is not a healthy population. By DOH’s own estimates there are 700,000-800,000 people in NM with serious pre existing conditions. Given the amount of vaccine we are receiving it is going to take a very, very long time to get all of those people vaccinated. Who knows how many people are over 75 but judging by this story nothing was happening for them either. I am also wondering why our state decided to stick with just those over 75 when almost all other states shifted to prioritizing those 65 and older. Of course this would just add to the current situation. I expected more from our DOH given that our governor was the secretary of health. All these so called misunderstandings, glitches, and the like are nothing for the DOH to brag about. I’m very disappointed in how our vaccination program is going to date.

Mike Johnson

Exactly, and the reason NM is so far behind vaccinating older people is that they intentionally included age 16+ if you lied about conditions you have, and of course the younger political cronies, connections, and operatives all got vaccinated, like Egolf. Much of it is who you know and political. They should have based it solely on age and living circumstances (nursing homes, etc.), that could be proven with a driver's license, not all the other things they included. That just pushed older people to the back of the line, where we are still waiting for an appointment and probably will until summer.

Ramon David

Why not have primary physicians qualify people for the priority groups and appointments instead of having people self report their conditions?

Eugene Murski

Once again Texas shines over New Mexico.

James Morris

Funny. You’ve got a good sense of humor.

Rocki Gorman

I am a 64 year old cancer survivor and have planned to go to Amarillo by morning this week. I don’t want to wait around forever to receive the shot. We need to get our hoteliers, food service, and retail workers immunized ASAP so we can welcome our beloved out of towners with open arms which , in turn, can refill the empty city and state coffers. I love my Santa Fe but I say God Bless Texas.... and let’s get this show on the road.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] And I have been told by people who have gone that the Texans are happy to see people from NM, and are very welcoming. Can you imagine what New Mexicans would say to Texans if they came here for vaccination? That's the difference.

Red Eagle

[thumbup]

Dan Wright

thumps up

david J.

AGREE!!!!!

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