New Mexico’s newly appointed health secretary said she expects New Mexicans soon will be able to conduct their own COVID-19 tests at home.

Though she did not lay out a timeline for the do-it-yourself tests, which the Food and Drug Administration approved Tuesday, Dr. Tracie C. Collins said New Mexicans “absolutely” will have access to them.

“Plans are underway and moving forward to have the at-home test available to New Mexico residents,” the secretary-designate said during a virtual news conference Tuesday. “We are in the planning phase of that and moving forward.

“It’s gonna be soon.”

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Tuesday said the self-testing kit could be sold in places like drugstores so “a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes.”

That news came as New Mexico continues to roll out its first supply of 17,550 doses of the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which first will go to health care workers dealing with COVID-19 patients and to staff members and residents of long-term care facilities around the state.

The U.S. initiated its mass vaccination campaign Monday following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency approval of that vaccine.

Another vaccine, made by biotechnology company Moderna, could be cleared for use next after FDA scientists said it was 94 percent effective against the novel coronavirus.

Collins said that if Moderna is approved, the state also will commit doses of that vaccine to long-term care facility staff and patients. She added the Department of Health would run other vaccines through a variety of channels, including the state’s influential Medical Advisory Team, to ensure they are safe and can help “get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Collins said the arrival and use of the initial dose of the vaccine this week means “we begin to turn the tide, protecting ourselves and the community and moving toward a brighter day.”

The first doses were sent out to 30 hospitals statewide, she said.

Individuals receiving the shot will require a booster shot three weeks later — dosages that will come from future shipments of the vaccine, Collins said.

But she also said the vaccine does not guarantee safety as the virus continues to spread. She said people still must wear protective masks, wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing skills to blunt COVID-19’s advance.

As of Tuesday, New Mexico reported 122,557 residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, and 2,006 had died from it.

The newly approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be available on a voluntary basis because federal guidelines do not require anyone to take the vaccine against their will.

Collins said she hopes more than 70 percent of New Mexicans will have received the vaccine within a year.

By then, she said, there should be additional data on whether the vaccine reduces the transmission rate of the virus and whether “we can stop with the mask, the social distancing in a year.”

Earlier this month, state officials warned the increasing number of New Mexicans contracting the virus might result in the implementation of a “crisis care” plan in hospitals by year’s end.

Collins said the state is still preparing for that action. The state reported Tuesday that 865 people were hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.

“I’m hoping we don’t reach that point, but we have to watch the numbers,” she said, adding that any large holiday gatherings could lead to another surge in infections.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(3) comments

Mike Johnson

One interesting question arises if the home tests come soon (January according to the company, 100,000 per day manufactured) and are widespread. How will the politicians manipulate and control the numbers they put out to run our lives? How will they know what the cases counts per day are, and the % positivity, which are key to "Red to Green" edicts? They should be very worried of maintaining their dictatorial control over us if power shifts to the people.

Mike Johnson

“we can stop with the mask, the social distancing in a year.” More pessimistic, worst case scenario lecturing and fear mongering from the political appointees. Please stop and just be honest, if you don't know, just say that, these types have been wrong and misleading for the last 10 months, who can trust them?

Donato Velasco

just like the pregnancy test,

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