New Mexico is preparing to receive the first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as Tuesday.
Don’t roll up your sleeves just yet.
Health care workers on the front lines of the crushing coronavirus pandemic will be at the front of the line.
During a virtual news conference Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the vaccine “a game changer” and “a huge bright spot” in the fight against the virus.
“There are not going to be enough vaccines for any state, including New Mexico, to be able to provide vaccines to every New Mexican who needs them and every New Mexican who wants them right away,” she said.
“But it tells me that with the vaccine distributions in the next three to six months, we are really going to see dramatic improvements in the risks associated with COVID-19 and the ability to begin to have sort of more normalcy in our everyday lives,” the governor added.
“Although, I submit to you, I think mask-wearing occurs for a year,” she said.
New Mexico is expected to receive 17,550 doses of the vaccine, which an advisory panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration endorsed for emergency use Thursday.
“Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee’s recommendation,” the Associated Press reported.
In a letter to the 37 hospitals in New Mexico that are poised to receive the first allotments of the vaccine, the state Department of Health said they should initially anticipate that “allocations will be less than demand until supply can catch up.”
“Over time, distribution strategies will change as more vaccine becomes available and more people are recommended for vaccination,” the letter states.
Lujan Grisham said New Mexico has the ability to deploy the first round of vaccines “where they need to go immediately.”
The governor also said the state is poised to receive “additional vaccines” in the future.
“The second vaccine that we expect to get FDA approval is from Moderna,” she said. “Those vaccines are slated for nursing home residents and staff. … It isn’t going to be enough to do every CNA — certified nursing aide — every staff person at a nursing home and every resident. Again, it’s looking at those high-risk facilities with high-risk residents, high-risk staff.”
Lujan Grisham said it will take several weeks of vaccines coming into the state before “we have holistically protected health care workers and long-term care residents.”
“Once that’s done — that will be well into, we anticipate, February, early March — then it’s essential workers, child care workers, corrections, police officers, first responders, individuals who are high risk,” she said. “We will be finalizing those plans that have to have federal approval, and we’re really looking at what those time frames look like to get those vaccines out and feeling very confident that New Mexico will do a productive, safe job.”
For the first shipment from Pfizer, the state is directing hospitals to vaccinate health care personnel “serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials,” the letter states.
The governor described that category of personnel as those working in intensive care units for COVID-19 patients.
“We will look at also health care workers who are on the high-risk category because of their own underlying conditions,” she said.
But the first allotment of vaccines is only expected to reach a portion of the high-priority category.
“Initial supply of vaccine will be limited and there may be settings where the initial vaccine supply is insufficient to vaccinate everyone in a priority group and sub-prioritization is necessary,” according to the letter from the Department of Health.
In an email, Matt Nerzig, a spokesman for the governor, called the letter “a major first step forward on preparing for the arrival of the first shipment” of the vaccine.
Pfizer Inc. recently announced New Mexico would be one of four states taking part in a trial to deliver the company’s vaccine, which early tests indicate is 90 percent effective. The state was chosen because its vast rural areas and 23 Native American tribes and pueblos will make distribution more difficult.
Overcoming the logistical hurdles during the trial phase will provide important information to New Mexico and other states for when they do their vaccine rollouts, Pfizer and New Mexico health officials said.