The New Mexico Department of Health will soon identify in its coronavirus vaccination invitations which vaccine a person will receive, and most experts urge people to accept any of the three.

“Please get a vaccine as soon as you are eligible,” the Health Department said Friday. “It could save your life.”

The matter is considered pertinent because some Catholics and evangelical Christians have discouraged use of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They have questioned the morality of Johnson & Johnson’s use many years ago of fetal cell lines derived from abortions.

Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe said this week that the availability of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is encouraging. That vaccine requires only one dose, while the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines call for two, making the Johnson & Johnson inoculation more convenient for rural New Mexicans, he said.

Using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is fine, Wester said, because it moves the country closer to widespread immunity and promotes “protection of human life.” It is “entirely morally acceptable” to receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, he said.

Catholic leaders in St. Louis, New Orleans and other places have decried the ethics and morality of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines in some of the testing of their vaccines, but Johnson & Johnson used them to help produce its vaccine. Regardless, the cell lines used in either testing or production are from abortions that took place decades ago.

The cells continue multiplying in laboratories and are long removed from the original fetal cell. Science magazine reported that cell lines have been used since the 1960s to make vaccines against rubella and other diseases.

Most medical officials and organizations encourage getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if it’s the one available.

“These cell lines are literally thousands of generations removed from when they originated,” said Daniel Derksen, a family physician and director of the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health. “There’s no tissue from a fetus. They’re not the same as aborted fetal tissue.”

Derksen said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has less stringent refrigeration requirements than the two others and “really helps states like New Mexico and Arizona,” with vast rural areas.

The New Mexico Department of Health said Friday: “To be clear … there is no fetal tissue in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

The Catholic-affiliated Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe will not offer people a choice of vaccines “and will be administering what we have available at the time,” Christus spokesman Arturo Delgado said in a statement. All three vaccines have proven effective in preventing hospitalizations, he said, “and our focus is on doing what’s best for our community.”

A 72-year-old Santa Fe woman said Friday she would accept any of the vaccines but hasn’t yet been invited. The woman, who asked that she not be named, said she has heart and breathing conditions, has an immune deficiency and is overweight. She said she can’t seem to get to the front of the list and that a 64-year-old friend in Santa Fe without underlying conditions has already received a shot.

“Something’s not right,” she said. “I’ll take whatever I can get. … I just want the vaccination.”

Dr. Tracie Collins, the state’s health secretary, said earlier in the week that the state had received 17,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Collins said the state would distribute those doses to the 10 counties with the lowest vaccine coverage.

Health Department spokesman Matt Bieber said Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties are among the 10. Bieber said the decision on which vaccine is offered will be based on what’s available. If a patient rejects the first invitation, they will be placed back in the line of eligible recipients.

“Not at the front or the back,” Bieber said in an email.

Derksen called all three “miracle vaccines” that are highly effective in preventing complications from the disease and death.

“That’s what we ought to be focused on,” he said.

(10) comments

John Tallent

I am sure glad my wife and made the the 10+ hour round trip to Amarillo to get our shots!!!

we breezed right in after showing IDs, rolled up our sleeves, sat down to let thing s settle like they asked us to, and were on our way back to Northern New Mexico after hitting the grocery store.


Matt Ponteri

Why religion even enters this issue is beyond me. I was raised Roman Catholic, went to church every Sunday, its hardly gonna stop me from taking any vaccine if i ever get an event number. And for those who feel the state of New Mexico is stopping you from doing things, i dont know where you live, but in my town, nothing ever stopped. The only difference was restaurants closing, and most likely cause its to hard to hide them when open. Other then that, enforcement of guidelines for covid have been virtually non existent. Good thing it wasn't Black Plague or we'd have 8,000 dead people here, cause nothing is going to stop t shirt sales and coffee mugs from being sold to tourists.

Bill Malloy

There's some "forked-tongue" narrative in this story. I'm just under 75 but with 3 underlying conditions that "should" put me in category 1b along with all from age 16-74 in line with "healthy or compromised" 75-year olds. I have a state registration number, but no feedback that I have indeed been elevated into 1b. No feedback at all.

I'm glad for those ladies being vaccinated in the Demons gym although I wish I know how they scored their appointments. I know that some SFSD teachers were mustered for vaccination 5-6 weeks ago, then sent home with no explanation and no follow-up to date. I "repatriated" to Santa Fe 3 years ago after a 40-year sojourn. I have an acquaintance my age (and 40 years a local) who on March 1st told me that he knew of only 1 person in the age 75 bracket who's been granted a vaccine in the Santa Fe area. Just one!

Christus St. Vincent's official phone story is that when they receive vaccines they will randomly choose from some 3,800 persons age 75 and above who are in their system as cross-checked against the state's register. Again, nothing about the 16-74 population with underlying conditions.

Since I'm in the St. Vincent system with all three known conditions, I realize that writing this puts me at risk of being blacklisted. Nevertheless, it is imperative that these State and institutional misrepresentations be given the light of day.

Nationwide surveys show that 23% of New Mexican have been at least partially vaccinated. Who and where are those lucky ones? What is happening in its capital city? What is happening in Santa Fe's premier medical institution? Little to nothing.

Mike Johnson

So more complexity to an already secret, complex, byzantine system they refuse to explain. And meanwhile, 65+ people are vaccinated at the lowest % of any state so far, against the CDC science.

Lee DiFiore

Let's see, the state of NM instituted lockdowns a year back and now controls what, when, if and where you can do almost anything. NM then collected huge amounts of personal and medical data in order to get in line for the vaccine. NM decides when, where and if you get the vaccine. Why does it surprise anyone they are going to control which vaccine you get? Wake up people, it's not about you it's about the power. Duh!

Lynn k Allen

If someone refuses a vaccine, they should also sign a waver for the severe and extensive medical treatments from the virus.

If you refuse, don't punish our beleaguered medical personnel & system for your ideology.

Bill Malloy

I've thought about this, particularly after I heard that 1/3 of our military personnel have declined thus far. Kick 'em to the curb?

Amy Earle

Ignorance continues to reign. Just yesterday the mayor of Detroit turned down a shipment of J&J with the misguided idea that the product was somehow inferior. It isn’t. It has the same end goal as the other 2-saving lives. We are receiving first generation vaccines no matter what one we receive. Down the road they will all be modified and we will all likely be receiving a second generation vaccine in future years. The important thing right now is getting people vaccinated. In looking at the data from the state there are counties where registration is low. Santa Fe is not one of them. We have many artists and creative people in SF. It’s time to take advantage of their talent and spread the word about the importance of vaccination for all New Mexicans. If those in authority like the archbishop can help with this effort use them I do question parts of our vaccination system. While it’s sophisticated on the one hand it’s also schizophrenic as to how it decides who’s turn it is to be vaccinated. That part has never made sense. The lady quoted in the article who is in her 70’s with serious health conditions should be in the front of the vaccine line. I hope these kind of falling through the cracks situations get resolved. Our state is right at the top in the nation for efficient use of the vaccine we receive and rates of vaccination. Let’s try to keep that trend going forward.

Charles W Rodriguez

Oh great! Yet another objection and divisive opinion coming from 18th century belief systems. As if this present reality needs amy more non-sequitors in its partisan arguments. Good lord, it's time to step forward, out of the era of witchcraft and into the 31st century.

Stefanie Beninato

Sure hope the Catholics in NM listen to the Archbishop Wester about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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