Kitchen Angels Executive Director Tony McCarty said he was “shocked and surprised” when he received an email Jan. 11 from La Familia Medical Center: The nonprofit’s staff and small army of volunteers could sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations that day.

“I thought it would be another month and a half,” McCarty said. “I said, ‘Whoa. Let’s do it!’ ”

He emailed Kitchen Angels community liaison Lauren LaVail, who wasted no time registering herself and her co-workers, and then emailing 420 volunteers to get them signed up as well.

The volunteers, who help make and deliver meals to homebound residents in Santa Fe, were “both thrilled and confused,” LaVail said.

The state’s vaccine rollout has created ample confusion in recent weeks.

The Kitchen Angels workers were among several groups, including some teachers, who were able get at least their first COVID-19 vaccine dose before they were intended for eligibility through New Mexico’s vaccination program. As the state entered Phase 1B of its rollout — following inoculation of critical medical workers and nursing home staff and residents in Phase 1A — a muddled message about who could get the shot has led to many people receiving it “out of subphase,” as a Department of Health spokesman called it.

Spokesman Matt Bieber acknowledged there was miscommunication about the priority list.

The first subphase of Phase 1B includes New Mexico residents 75 and over and those 16 and older who have high risks of COVID-19 complications. The second subphase: “front-line essential workers unable to work remotely” — a large group that includes teachers, caregivers, grocery store workers and others.

Local schools and organizations like Kitchen Angels, staffed with essential workers and volunteers, began getting notifications from vaccine providers alerting them of available doses.

On Thursday, the Department of Health began canceling some vaccination clinics for teachers and staff as it worked to refocus the effort — and a limited vaccine supply — on higher-priority people.

Jill Dixon, director of development at The Food Depot, a regional food bank that has served a growing number of Northern New Mexico residents in need throughout the pandemic, said she was one of 23 staff members and a number of volunteers who were inoculated last week.

Before the state released the details of its vaccination phases, the organization was unclear when workers would become eligible, Dixon said. “We weren’t sure what kind of vaccination prioritization we’d be getting.”

And then an opportunity emerged, almost out of the blue.

Dixon said she and her colleagues were “elated” to get vaccinated.

“If one of us were to get infected, we’re such a small outfit it would likely shut down most of our operations,” she said. “… We’re trying to keep our community fed. And we need to do everything we can to stay at our jobs.”

Kitchen Angels’ LaVail also was overjoyed about vaccine access for her volunteers.

“I felt like Santa Claus delivering gifts,” she said.

When she distributed the vaccination event code to her volunteers, LaVail said, it was like a feeding frenzy.

The vaccination clinic went smoothly and was well organized, she said, though she also described it as “a little loose.”

Nobody asked for her identification, LaVail said, and a staff member at one point asked if anyone else needed a shot — “like one of those concerts, where they had extra tickets and just started giving them away.”

“It only took about an hour,” she said. “It was no sweat. I had a sore arm and felt a little achy. That was it.”

Health care workers at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and La Familia Medical Center were offered the vaccine as part of the Phase 1A rollout. Now they are working to get others in the community inoculated.

The facilities are not always certain how many vaccine doses they will have to offer.

“There are a lot of supply chain problems, which stem from all the uncertainty at the federal level,” said Dr. Wendy Johnson, chief medical officer at La Familia.

Four weeks ago, the clinic received 300 doses, she said. The next week, zero. The third week, 100.

But Johnson said she remains confident the state will successfully roll out its vaccines.

“We should be going to [Phase] 1C in a month or so,” she said. “These vaccines are safe. They are the way out of this epidemic.”

Dixon, meanwhile, acknowledged the long line of people waiting for vaccinations — nearly half a million have registered on a state website and almost 163,000 shots have been administered, according to state data.

She also noted the importance of keeping her staff safe.

“It’s such a moral quandary,” she said. “We want to be safer because of what we do and who we’re providing food to. But I have read the news and I know there’s a sense of scarcity around the vaccine. It tugs at people’s hearts. …

“I can appreciate how people might’ve felt torn about getting the vaccine when they did,” Dixon said. “Should teachers be vaccinated before other people? Before other types of workers or other people who might have a medical situation? I get it.

“But for now,” she said, “I can just hope for a ramped-up production and easier access. For everyone.”

(28) comments

Jim Klukkert

As I write, I count eight very repetitive, negative, dismissive and insulting, albeit thankfully brief, comments replying to other posters by mark Nickson on this page. Twice Mr. Nickson replied “go take a nap;” three times Nickson replied “who cares what you say/think?;” twice again Nickson replied “You tend to ramble” or “…you compose a dissertation.”

Mr. Nickson may claim that he is just being realistic about this hard, cold world. A reasonable person might conclude otherwise: that Mr. Nickson does not seem to have much compassion for his neighbors, not for the people of New Mexico. Mr. Nickson seems to have no feeling, nor respect, for those who we trust to educate our young people, nor for the many dealing with Coronavirus driven challenges. A reasonable person might also conclude that Nickson derives some perverse joy in putting down what well intentioned people have to say.

I find this pattern of comments to be abusive, and will shortly bring Mr. Nickson’s behavior to the attention of the SFNM webeditor. Before I go, gentle readers may want to read other Nickson comments, which I have listed below.

mark Nickson, commenting on Jan. 27, on the SFNM article “Many New Mexico students and teachers balk at returning to classrooms unvaccinated” regarding grandparents, parents, teachers and students discussing the difficult decision to return or not to classrooms, wrote: “What a bunch of baby cry's. Can't have it both way, folks. If you don't want to teach, seek another profession. If you don't want to learn, stay home and remain dumb all your life. It's that simple.”

On 22 January, in comments on “Priority for vaccines still muddled in New Mexico,” replying to Lee DiFiore, who admits having no respect for teachers, and who had a number of comments deleted as abusive, Mr. Nickson wrote: “@ Lee, I bet teachers don't want to leave the comfort of their living rooms. Why would they?”

Commenting on “Small businesses bear brunt of pandemic crash, Española mayor says” published January 26, mark Nickson commented on January 27, 2021 5:00 a.m.: “On a personal note, I'd much rather frequent a big-box store hands down over an over-priced, limited selection, limited hours local store. Throw in Amazon, and I'm good! This is 2021, folks, not 1980. The retail landscape has changed and will be different 20 years from now as well. That small business mindset is archaic.”

Diad Wheeler

HOW ABOUT THIS: We institute a "Vaccination Hypocrisy Condition", which requires people to show their Voter ID before they get a vaccination, and if they're Republicans - hence COVID Deniers - then they go to the back of the line.

Jim Klukkert

Now, now Died, you don't want Trumpeteers like Valdez the righteous calling you out!

Though yes, it is fun.

Seriously though, at some point we have to come to positive terms with these science denying conspiracy theory fruit cakes.

Did I not put that the right way?

mark Coble

Just a reminder...New Mexico is a leader in "pay to play".

Brian Burke

Meanwhile my story is ongoing: I am a frontline medical worker (a critical care RN) working with covid positive patients in EVERY SINGLE shift for the last 10 months. I am immunocompromised, and after talking to my doctor, we decided that the Moderna vaccine was the safer option for me. So I filled out everything required by the New Mexico Department of health more than a month ago. I updated my information immediately as they required it. I called the department and left several messages, eventually speaking to a very unhelpful individual. I attempted to coordinate with my hospitals employee health department to facilitate access to the Moderna vaccine... All for nothing! I have not heard back from the state regarding access to the vaccine, despite all of my efforts. I'm at a loss on how to proceed, and my risk remains exceptionally high on a daily basis. The recognition and appreciation for those of us who gave stood up (for our patients and our community) against the chaos, fear, and yes, rampant death of the pandemic, since DAY ONE, is only shallow lip service--we remain exposed and unsupported by our local government. The NM state health system has absolutely failed me, and I am sure that there are many other frontline workers who are in the same boat, while this special New Mexican blend of incompetence and corruption runs unchecked. Disgusting.

Betsy Brandt

Brian this is heartbreaking to hear! I am shocked to hear there is no one advocating for our front line health care workers. Why can't doctors be advocates in the system?

I feel much like you. I signed my 92 year old mom up as soon as the website was announced. She is not in a long term care facility--she lives independently-- so there is no one advocating for her and others like her. It's all very disheartening. PLEASE send your comment to the Governor's office as I did mine. She needs to know things are broken here and some major interventions are necessary to stop the cheating and non-compliance. I did get a response back from her office that they are working on my issue. The more of us she hears from the better because this is a mess that needs fixing! Meanwhile God bless you Brian for putting yourself at risk every single day to save lives. Please know you are a hero and are so very loved and appreciated by New Mexicans! Gov's website:

Richard Forrest

Brian, you and others like you are supposed to be top of the list and should have gotten vaccinated first. I thought hospitals were arranging for their staff to get vaccinated? Makes no sense. I’ve been ranting about 65+ getting pushed aside by cronyism in this distribution, but my complaint pales in comparison to yours. Can you find more like you where you work and plan a walkout?

Richard Forrest

Listen people who are grossly dissatisfied with the way seniors are being pushed aside for those far less at risk of death from Covid-19. To be more broadly heard we need to take our concerns to social media in addition to comments on the SFNM website. I'm not sure I'm the best person to organize this, but I'm willing to try, with a FB page to start. Many of you have kids and grandkids who could help expand our efforts to be heard and vaccinated NOW, not after every young grocery worker, food bank volunteer, delivery driver, and 16 + person slightly overweight. We are being cheated out of our rightful place in line. We've earned this right not only by our age, but by virtue of our long, productive contributes in building this country and society.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]The system is run by the government, the government is run by politicians, politicians are corrupt and play favorites, the logic explains it all for this travesty.

Cathy Plummer

I believe that each one of us should write to the Governor about the unfair manner in which the vaccine has been distributed in NM. I would be happy to join with a group if we could organize one.... we may be more successful working together.

Richard Forrest

So the NM vaccination injustice continues daily. Food bank volunteers have been vaccinated. Good for them but once again I ask, what are their risks, for their age? Do they make up over 80% of deaths from Covid-19? Seriously I'd like an answer. They are "elated" according toDixon, like Santa Claus had arrived. Meanwhile the most vulnerable have not been contacted and are not scheduled to be. And yet the food bank organizers claim -

“If one of us were to get infected, we’re such a small outfit it would likely shut down most of our operations,” she said. “… We’re trying to keep our community fed. And we need to do everything we can to stay at our jobs. And "Kitchen Angels’ LaVail also was overjoyed about vaccine access for her volunteers. Apparently they are more concerned about their jobs and people going hungry than all those over 65 years of age suffering and DYING horrendous deaths! We counted on the state government to set and stick to ethical and moral priorities. They are failing. More unnecessary deaths are the result. This is all disgusting.

Mike Johnson

So La Familia is deeply involved in this kind of political corruption and favoritisms. Figures.

Richard Forrest


Amy Earle

Considering that our governor was the head of health and human services in NM our rollout should be much better than it is. I’m very disappointed in how it’s going. If people have registered and have completed their profiles surely there must be a system built in the program to sort things so that only people in the category currently being vaccinated are being vaccinated. This jumping around to other phases is ridiculous. Already some states are finding they don’t have adequate vaccine for dose 2 of those who have been vaccinated. I fully expect that to be the next problem here as well. A big mess is what this is.


Amazing on paper DOH has a good plan, why not follow it? It is pretty simple straight forward and sequential. This operation from state is starting to look like Orwells ANIMAL FARM. Lujan for months we watched NMDOH's commercials to protect our elderly parents and Grandparents from the virus, now it is starting to look like window dressing. GOVENOR LUJAN, it is time for you to show real leadership and correct what has been happening in our state. Please get your people to follow your own guidelines, enough is enough.

Richard Forrest

Could not agree more.

Lee DiFiore

Why do so many lemmings think government is the answer to every problem. In many cases government is the cause of the problem and rarely, if ever, the solution.

Jim Klukkert

Sure, Lee, let's leave infrastructure, national defense, Pandemic response and fire protection to anybody but government. That will work!

Wait, wait, that's exactly what used to be done for ages. With the failure of highly localized, ad hoc efforts, we lemmings united to form more perfect unions.

So good on us lemmings for learning from practice. Hate to call you out for a Siren's Song, but your efforts would put us all on the Rocks, Lee. Thanks anyway!

Lee DiFiore

Wait, jimbo, you citing the pandemic response as a government success? Haven't you spent the last 10 months whining about how poor the pandemic response has been at the federal level? And didn't your chosen candidate run on that platform?

Jim Klukkert

Lee , you are so right! It was amazing that Trump let Joe take charge for the last 10 months! Oh no, wait, it was Trump charge, spewing lies about how Covid was a flu, but forgetting to organize the massive, unified response needed, a response so large and necessarily uniform, that only the Feds could pull it off.

Trump did not do that, Joe will, though it will take longer than 2 days in office.

But time flies when you’re having so much fun mocking others, even while many suffer. You are such a sensitive soul Lee, just as much as the Donald.

Cathy Plummer

I have family members in PA, DE, OH and FL who have appointments for vaccinations, and who are all younger than I am without health issues. My husband and I are over 65 (closer to 70) with hx of stroke and COPD; another family member here is over 75 and on oxygen. We all registered as soon as it was available and have been checking every day but no information. This is causing a lot of stress.... I don't think we should be touting our vaccination rates in NM, it appears that many other states are doing this better. DOH's communcation could definitely be improved.

Stefanie Beninato

I think the DOH took down the number to call about your registration unless you have technical issues. I too am in the 1B category and was just run around by the Governor's office and the DOH> The governor now during session actually has people answering the phones unlike the rest of the year. These new hires sound clueless and gave me an 800 number for the CDC SO helpful!!! NOT

Richard Forrest

Cathy I couldn't agree more. I'm same age group as you, pushing 70, and now planning to drive to a nearby state to get my vaccination. By sneaking in of course. NM has completed effed this up. I've supported the governor but no more.

Stefanie Beninato

I called last week and was told to be patient. I met criteria to be in the 1B group for sure.

Betsy Brandt

My family is very confused by this roll-out. Our mom is 92 years old and has not been contacted yet for a vaccine. We thought the governor--who really cares about seniors--was giving more priority to elderly. They seem to have gotten lost in this shuffle of a very large group. Please governor can you address this? It is disheartening when you hear of people getting called for a vaccine who don't meet any of the criteria of the 1B roll out. We are anxious and need clear communication.

Kelly McReynolds

How can we be on phase 1C if so many in phase 1B have not been given the opportunity to get vaccinated? Do we all need to be asking our pharmacy daily? If you were supposed be in phase 1B does that mean you’ve been passed over or fallen through the cracks if they move to phase 1C and you were not called? Consistency and communication definitely can be improved here.

Tom Neff

We are not in Phase 1C, and the article does not say that we are in Phase 1C.

Kelly McReynolds

I should clarify. I know we are not currently in 1C, but my concern is the article quoted someone as saying we should be moving to 1C soon which seems premature when I know a number of people who qualify under 1B that have not been contacted. The process does not seem to be consistent or clear.

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