New Mexico’s coronavirus caseload is falling sharply as the state continues to roll out vaccinations, with the Department of Health expecting another large shipment of shots next week, health officials said Wednesday.
The state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases was 369 as of Feb. 11, above a target of 168 but far lower than at any point in the past four months.
“The good news is we’re seeing the steady downward trend in cases, which is what we want to see. And that’s happening really in every area of the state,” said Dr. David Scrase, New Mexico’s human services secretary, in a virtual news conference. “Some a little bit more downward trending than others, but we’re seeing good progress everywhere. We’re happy to see that, and that’s good news for New Mexico.”
The state has administered 450,299 doses of the two-shot vaccine, with 143,578 people receiving both shots.
The number of doses given each day has increased 22 percent compared to two weeks ago. On average, the state has administered 10,820 shots a day over the past week.
New Mexico has received 454,350 doses from the federal government and expects to receive an additional 72,510 shots next week — 4,600 more shots than it received last week.
More than 628,000 New Mexicans have registered to get their shots using a state website.
“We’re administering nearly all our doses every week. … We’ve had a doubling in the figures from two weeks ago regarding the second doses administered,” said Dr. Tracie Collins, the state’s health secretary-designate, who also took part in the conference call.
The state is hoping for a new vaccine to become available in early March, she said, which would help bolster supplies.
In the meantime, Collins cited a “supply-demand mismatch.”
“We’re still hoping to get more vaccine doses, but right now we got nearly 800,000 New Mexicans who are eligible [for the vaccine] based on our criteria,” she said.
The state is administering the vaccine to residents in the first two subgroups of Phase 1B — people 75 or older and residents 16 or older who are at risk of developing severe complications from the illness — and to everyone in Phase 1A, which includes hospital workers, medical first responders, and residents and employees of long-term care facilities.
Some people have complained about how the vaccine is being rolled out.
While 15.7 percent of New Mexicans 75 and older have gotten both shots, a larger share than any other age group, some older residents have complained it’s difficult to get vaccinated.
And there are wide discrepancies in vaccination rates among counties. While only 10.9 percent of Eddy County residents have been partially vaccinated and 3.3 percent have been fully vaccinated, state data shows, 32.8 percent of residents of Harding County have received their first shot and 15 percent have gotten both shots.
In Santa Fe County, 16.1 percent of residents have received the first dose and 8.6 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Of all New Mexico residents who have been fully vaccinated, 8.1 percent are white compared to 5.9 percent who identify as Hispanic or Latino.
“The discrepancies are things that we’re constantly tracking to improve upon, and it’s also part of our equity plan as we look at those communities that are most vulnerable,” Collins said.
“Now we’re going back to evaluate how we might have missed many [sites] around the state and to improve upon that to make sure we distribute vaccine to all sites equitably,” she added.
In an email, Department of Health spokesman Matt Bieber referenced the supply-and-demand challenge.
“We’re grateful that so many New Mexicans are eager to get vaccinated, and DOH is eager to vaccinate them — but we depend on the federal government for our supply,” he said.
Officials at Santa Fe’s two largest health care providers — Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Healthcare Services — said they are vaccinating residents as quickly as they can.
“Any steps to ramp up our efforts would be tied directly to supply,” said Arturo Delgado, a spokesman for Christus St. Vincent, which is providing nearly 1,000 vaccine doses per week. “If and when our supply increases, we are prepared to increase the number of vaccinations we administer to our community to as much as 4,000 or more per week.”