More than 70 percent of New Mexicans 75 and older who have registered for a coronavirus vaccination have received at least one shot, the state Department of Health reported this week.
The Health Department has created a new online public “dashboard” with updated numbers of people who have registered for the vaccine in each phase of the state’s distribution effort, as well as the status of inoculations in each group.
Three months into the vaccine distribution effort, many seniors who haven’t received a shot say they still don’t know where they stand in the rollout. They have complained about fuzzy communication from the state as they await their chance to be inoculated against a deadly virus that poses higher risks for older people.
“The only communication I want to hear from the Department of Health is that I’ve got a vaccination appointment,” said 69-year-old Pam Nation, who has diabetes and high blood pressure.
Matt Bieber, a spokesman for the Health Department, said the state wants to provide clarity.
“It is extraordinarily complex logistically,” Bieber said. “There are a lot of curve balls and complexities to this.”
Among other information, the new online dashboard indicates:
- 72 percent of close to 100,000 registrants 75 and older have received at least one shot and about 2,900 more are scheduled for their first shot.
- 80 percent of about 79,000 health care workers who have registered have received at least one shot and about 2,400 are now scheduled for their first.
- 77 percent of educators who have registered have received at least their first shot, with about 3,300 more scheduled for their first.
On a separate site, the Health Department reports providers’ daily progress in rolling out the vaccine — which has gained momentum in the past couple of weeks. On Thursday, the data showed more than 1.13 million doses had been delivered to New Mexico, and providers had administered nearly 950,000 of them.
Those numbers were a combination of doses the federal government has shipped to both state and federal agencies. They show 35.4 percent of residents in New Mexico have received at least one shot and 20.8 percent are fully vaccinated.
Many more residents have received shots out of state.
New Mexicans have gone to Texas or Colorado for their vaccinations, but the state doesn’t know how many. It has asked those who have done this to inform the state so they can be taken off the registry. Bieber said some out-of-staters, perhaps 5,000, have come to New Mexico for their vaccinations.
Bieber stressed that supply and demand drives the pace of vaccinations. The state could administer far more shots now if it had more doses.
“Some of it is just out of our hands,” he said. “We don’t have enough vaccine yet. … America’s doing something that it’s really never done.”
Acquiring precise details on coronavirus vaccination progress in New Mexico is difficult because of the nuances of the process. For instance, the majority of people are tracked by the state’s coronavirus vaccine registry system. But some medical providers, approved by the state, don’t use that registry and work strictly through the New Mexico Statewide Immunization Information System.
Further, the federal government runs its own vaccine program with Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Services, the Defense Department and prisons. Bieber said the state doesn’t have phase-based distribution data for most of the doses administered to those people.
He said there have been some vaccinations outside the highest-priority groups of health care workers, nursing home staff and residents, New Mexicans 75 and older, teachers and people with underlying medical conditions.
The state recently told medical providers they would face a $5,000 fine for vaccinating people who haven’t been prioritized. Bieber estimated 30,000 have gone out of phase.
But many of those vaccinations have been given because medical providers must distribute all of their vaccine by the day’s end — the vaccines have a short shelf life. Distributing the remaining doses by calling people within the area is OK, he said, although they should still be within a prioritized group.
One “trade group” evidently told its members to register as though from another profession so they could qualify for shots sooner, he said. “It’s pretty rare when you see a case like that.”
He said medical providers “are working very hard to comply with the phase system” and that the state has procedures that require them to document vaccinations given outside the appropriate phases.
New Mexico is a vast state to serve, Bieber said, and it’s difficult to ship and store vaccine over great distances. Nevertheless, he said, New Mexico has outperformed other states.
“We understand that folks are eager to get vaccinated,” Bieber said. “We’re going to get to them absolutely as quickly as we can.”