With New Mexico ranked near the top nationwide for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, state health officials announced a new plan Thursday intended to improve equity in allocation, distribution and access for state residents.

As daily caseloads in New Mexico trend downward and public health restrictions have been eased in many counties, health officials said the new plan will target vaccination efforts in communities that have been seeing higher rates of COVID-19 cases and those that are more vulnerable to the coronavirus due to poverty and other socioeconomic factors.

“We want to vaccinate New Mexicans efficiently and equitably,” state Health Department Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said Thursday during an online news conference. “We are targeting weekly equity allocations to the most vulnerable and exposed communities. We are focusing on reducing morbidity and mortality and reducing viral spread.”

Collins said the state will bring on new providers to meet the needs of underserved communities and use mobile vaccination teams to administer doses to those in areas with fewer health resources.

The Department of Health also announced it will increase vaccinations for seniors by more than 10 percent over the next two weeks.

To date, more than 520,000 doses have been administered across New Mexico, according to the Health Department. More than 20 percent of New Mexicans 16 and over have been partially vaccinated, and more than 10 percent in that category have been fully vaccinated.

The state ranked first in the country on Thursday in the percentage of distributed vaccine doses that have been administered at 90.92 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine distribution tracker.

Collins said the state and country should receive more good vaccination news soon, as the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be approved by the Food and Drug Administration by as early as this weekend.

The Johnson & Johnson shot would be the third vaccine to be cleared by the FDA, after Pfizer’s and Moderna’s. Officials say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be easier to distribute to rural areas because it doesn’t require ultracold storage for transportation.

There have been isolated reports of available vaccines going to people outside the designated groups in phases 1A and 1B of distribution, which are supposed to include health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people 75 and over, and people 16 and over who are at risk of COVID-19 complications.

Speaking during Thursday’s news conference, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said those instances with vaccine providers have been rare but haven’t gone unnoticed.



“We have to be fair and equitable in those efforts, and that means providers have to do it in that way,” Lujan Grisham said. “The second we learn, and we have, that there are problems, there are significant accountability measures.”

Health officials credited the vaccination efforts and continued public safety measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing for a continued decline in case numbers.

On Thursday, the state reported 299 new cases and 13 additional deaths due to COVID-19. Hospitalizations were at 245.

The statewide positivity rate as of Tuesday was 3.7 percent, well below the target of 5 percent. Every county in the state had a positivity rate below 10 percent.

“We are on the road to recovery,” Lujan Grisham said. “This is exactly where we deserve to be, given our hard work, and it’s where we need to be to get to as close to normal as you can, pre-COVID.”

The trend of lower case numbers prompted the state on Wednesday to modify its red-to-green color-coded system for determining public health restrictions.

Counties with case counts below 8 per 100,000 residents and positivity rates below 5 percent for consecutive two-week periods will achieve turquoise status and be allowed to have all businesses operate indoors at some capacity. That includes bars, theaters and other event venues.

Catron, Harding, Sierra and Union counties will be in the turquoise category for at least the next two weeks.

Only four counties — Doña Ana, Eddy, McKinley and Otero — remain in the highest-risk level (red), down from 14 counties two weeks ago.

Lujan Grisham said current trends have her hopeful that spring and summer activities, including youth sports and outdoor markets, could be resumed. But she added New Mexicans must remain vigilant and dedicated to the public health measures that are set in place.

“I know not every frustration is over,” Lujan Grisham said. “I know that not every question or hesitation is resolved, but it should feel like it’s happening much faster now that it has over the last year.”

Matt Dahlseid is a digital enterprise producer and outdoors writer for the Santa Fe New Mexican.

(22) comments

JANE MANDEL

Like so many who have commented, I am still waiting to hear, and have been willing to “wait my turn” rather than travel to another state.—I’m under about to turn 74 and have at risk heath conditions but have heard nothing from DOH about getting my shot—my spouse, a year older and a cancer survivor had his first Moderna one month ago, and has yet to hear about an appointment for his second shot, and he’s worried NM isn’t getting any more Moderna...the state needs to provide better more transparent data about how many on the registry in each group have been vaccinated, and how many are registered and waiting.

DANIEL GOWE

Wow, in New Mexico people in the over 65 category have to "fend for themselves". There scattering to the wind to other states!

DANIEL GOWE

I don't get the rural area deal. They have cars just like you and me. They drive to the store, into town and can drive to the vaccine center just as well as anyone else.

Stephen Hauf

Mike Johnson I seldom agree you with but in regard to getting a vaccine in Santa Fe County for those of over 65 and over I could not agree more. I have some underlying conditions which I am sure that if I get Covid 19, it's the pearly gates for me. Even so since I am willing to go out and shop with double mask and at low shopper density times- I could not in good conscience not heed the SFPS call to go back to the classroom. Some of friends, also teachers, have gone to Texas and Colorado to get a vaccine . To add insult to injury NMDOH scheduled me for a vaccine and then without explanation cancelled it.

Stephen Hauf

I just discovered that not only did NMDOH cancel my Covid 19 shot appointment they kicked me out their system entirely. Looks like a drive to Texas to get Covid shot during Spring Break because it is not going to happen here in New Mexico

DANIEL GOWE

I here of people driving long distances to other states or to other cities and towns in NM to get their vaccine. I'm 69 and live in Santa Fe which is the State Capitol! I should not have to seek another state, city or distance town to get my vaccine shot. It's a shame I can't get a vaccine in a timely manner in the state, city or town which I live. What's really going on? The system is working as a snail moves, but like a snail it eventually gets there!

Lee DiFiore

Every single day we read or hear on the news what a great job NM is doing and how NM leads the country in vaccine distribution. Press releases from the governor's office I assume. Yet every single day there are stories of people in their 70's, 80's or even older with medical conditions who have yet to be vaccinated or who are going to neighboring states to get their vaccines. Someone's lying or spreading "misinformation". Care to guess who? And where's accountability and transparency? We're not leading the nation in vaccine management, we're 49th as usual.

Becky Park

Yes, I agree. I am a 68 year old survivor of paralytic polio with progressive neuromuscular decline. My husband is 72. We retired to Santa Fe from Houston just over a year ago, and we both long to be active in our new community. We each received email invitations from Houston Methodist Hospital to schedule our COVID vaccines. But here in Santa Fe? C’mon y’all! The numbers don’t add up to “fair and equitable.”

My sister, also in Santa Fe, is 72 with a serious pulmonary condition requiring oxygen, and she is waiting, and waiting. WHY SHOULD VULNERABLE NEW MEXICO SENIORS HAVE TO HUNT AND SEARCH AND DRIVE LONG DISTANCES TO OTHER STATES IN ORDER TO BE PROTECTED FROM COVID-19? My nose is twitching — is there a fish market nearby? Or is that just the smell of the governor’s mansion? By the way, has the governor received the vaccine?

John Newhagen

One way to read this is that certain groups will now go to the head of the line regardless of their underlying risk, while other who have substantial risk, usually age and health history, continue to be ignored.

I was all in on the states covid policy until vax rollout, but this policy actually threatens my well being.

Sue Mann

So many of you think all the NM residents aged 75 and older have received at least one vaccine by now. My husband is 82 with a pacemaker and I'm 78 and pneumonia prone and we have not been contacted by the DOH for a vaccine. We live in Santa Fe and know quite a few over 75 who have not had a vaccine. Every day we get up to check to see if the DOH has contacted us for a vaccine and nothing again this morning. And so we wait.

Monica Steidele

So, if NM ranks high in the country for vaccine distribution, why does Santa Fe County now only have an 18% vaccination rate (down from 26%+ 2 weeks ago)? The White House news conference this morning reports that people 65+ have a 50% vaccination rate nationally. There's a HUGE disconnect between what's being reported and the reality. I am 65+ with an immune system disease , on the NM registry and Presbyterian's list and I still have no idea when I'll be offered the vaccine. The "cheery" reports are disgusting!

Caitlin Smith

I saw an answer about why the vaccination rate appeared to drop--I had been wondering that too. They had been calculating the percentage as doses administered in the county, divided by population. They switched to number of residents vaccinated, divided by population. A lot of people from outside Santa Fe County were getting vaccinated in the county, apparently.

Mike Johnson

And meanwhile those of us 65-75 can't get vaccinated in SF Co. And my neighbor's 92 year old Mom in a SF nursing home still hasn't been vaccinated, while people from outside the county and state are getting vaccinated here. Is that MLG's idea of "equity"?

Martin Smith

I don't get it....many of the people making comments on right on....NM seems like a 3rd world only doing 75 and older, I'm going to Colorado where they are doing 65 and older. Lack of communication is a problem as well. Stuck at 75. Shameful.

Mike Johnson

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Nanci Cartwright

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: “Older adults are more vulnerable to serious illness and death from the novel coronavirus. Since January 12, the federal government has recommended that states expand vaccine eligibility to anyone 65 and older. As of February 22, 41 states and the District of Columbia had done so.“

My friends in NC, NV, CA, TX and MI have all received their first shots and some, their second shots. We are in the 69-71 age category. Why doesn’t NM follow the Federal guidelines to provide the vaccine to those 65 and older instead of 75 and older? We retired here 7 years ago but have plans to move on to a state that offers better medical care before we get much older. It took me 4 months to get in to see a cardiologist after an AFIB episode and then the hospital didn’t even have a cardiologist on staff. I was treated well by the doctor and nurses who attended me but I went home still in active AFIB. This is a beautiful state but lacking in some very important services for seniors.

Mike Johnson

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Amy Earle

While I’m glad that NM ranks near the top of vaccinations given I still find our way of going about it schizophrenic. It’s ridiculous that we stuck with vaccinating those over 75 when almost all states went to 65 and older. I also don’t understand why when the federal government released vaccine directly to pharmacies that was not supposed to impact state allotments it ended up that those vaccines could not be accessed outside the DOH. Everything runs through the DOH and how they are deciding who is contacted for vaccination or how they are prioritizing those with pre existing conditions remains a mystery. At this junction no one of any age or pre existing condition has a clue when we’ll be contacted. Is is a day, a month, many months? Who knows. In the meantime we continue to open things up when no information is ever given about how widely the UK variant in particular is circulating in NM. Bottom line is we remain clueless about everything. I’m not pleased with any of this and the sad reality is that we are powerless to do anything about it. The DOH holds all the cards.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Just more secret, authoritarian process us peons are not allowed to know about. It is about power and politics.

Mike Johnson

They would make more progress in reducing deaths by allowing all people over 65 to get vaccinated, as all but a few backward states, like NM, are doing. Then we wouldn't have to go to Texas or Colorado or Arizona, where it is easy to get shots, unlike NM.

Isabelle Sandoval

Be fair. Be equitable. NM DOH numbers for the two largest groups-Whites, 686,000 persons with 19% partial and 10% full vaccinations, and Hispanics, 781,000 persons with 14% partial and 8% full vaccinations in the state. Be fair. Be equitable.

Becky Park

I wonder whether more Hispanics than whites are reluctant to be vaccinated. All people should have equal access to life saving vaccines. All people over the age of 65 are vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness. It is frightening to think that the Wizard of Oz is sitting behind the curtain in New Mexico writing out the definition of “fair and equitable,” as it applies to sickness and death.

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