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Krista Gallegos, right, gives Tim Zimmerman, 67, a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center’s specialty clinic. Zimmerman was eligible for the booster because he has a low white blood cell count caused by chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The U.S. plans to make booster shots more widely available in late September as infections rise from the delta variant.

Medical professionals in the region see no reason for booster shots to bog down vaccination efforts against the coronavirus.

Booster shots — inoculations that come sometime after the original vaccinations for a disease — frequently are part of vaccine regimens, they say. That doctors and scientists now see a need for boosters against the coronavirus only reflects the fact that they continue to learn about the disease.

Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, a public health professor at New Mexico State University, wrote in an email that news from the federal government about a booster is “a welcome step and right in line with what was known about this virus and the vaccines.”

Guidance came Wednesday from federal administrators, who said new information indicates the vaccines’ strength against mild disease declines with time. They also said protection against serious disease might be found to decrease as well.

They said the booster shots are expected to go to people who received the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines eight months after receiving their second doses, starting Sept. 20. They also mentioned those people should wait until the Food and Drug Administration rules that third shots are safe and effective.

And they said health care workers and nursing home residents should hold priority. The FDA last week already authorized use, however, for immunocompromised people. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine hasn’t yet been cleared for booster shots.

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center’s specialty clinic at 433 St. Michael’s Drive in Santa Fe had plenty of business Wednesday for COVID-19 vaccinations, including people who received the booster shot.

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Joseph Duran, left, gives JoBeth Cash, 67, a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center’s specialty clinic. ‘Well, so far, so good,’ Cash said later. ‘I just was very anxious to get it.’

JoBeth Cash of Santa Fe said she had a prescription from her doctor for a coronavirus booster because of her severe asthma.

Cash, 67, received that booster shot Wednesday afternoon.

“Well, so far, so good,” she said later. “I just was very anxious to get it.”

Christus spokesman Arturo Delgado said those receiving the booster shot at the clinic at this time must be immunocompromised and have a doctor’s order for the shot.

Jennifer Reich, a University of Colorado Denver sociology professor who has written extensively about vaccination hesitancy, said it’s not clear if additional booster shots will be needed. If the core aspects of the virus remain similar enough over time, the immune system will continue to recognize it and respond, Reich said.

If the virus mutates profoundly, the immune system won’t recognize it from before. “And I think we can’t quite know yet,” she said.

Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman, chief patient safety officer with Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, said needing a booster shot shouldn’t lead to questions about the vaccines’ effectiveness or safety.

Salvon-Harman said studies have found the antibody levels decline a bit over time and that a booster shot after eight months may strengthen the response against the delta variant of the virus.

He said scientists managed to devise the coronavirus vaccines in surprisingly short order with minimal complications.

That “should give us incredible confidence in science and in the medical community,” he said.

The state Department of Health reported Wednesday that 75.2 percent of New Mexico residents 18 and older have received at least one COVID-19 shot.

The delta variant here and elsewhere has significantly driven up the coronavirus caseload. As of Monday, the state Department of Health reported, there had been 4,915 cases in the state in the previous seven days. That rate hasn’t been seen since early this year.

Historically, most vaccines have required boosters, said Jasmine Meyer, clinical programs manager at La Familia Medical Center in Santa Fe. The delta variant is a “vast mutation,” Meyer wrote in an email, but the coronavirus vaccines are “still quite effective.”

She added, “It’s natural, and to be expected, that we would need a booster for additional protection.”

David Morgan, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health, wrote in an email the booster shouldn’t fuel any arguments against the vaccines.

“In our view, this is less about arguing and more about understanding and — where appropriate — respectful efforts at persuasion,” Morgan wrote. “At this point, we see daily stories across the country — and some here in New Mexico — about people who choose not to get vaccinated, get sick, and express regret on their deathbeds. We don’t want that to happen to more families.”

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Krista Gallegos, right, updates vaccine cards for Emily Baldridge, left, and Jerry Baldridge after they received a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center's specialty clinic. The U.S. plans to make booster shots more widely available in late September as infections rise from the delta variant.

(11) comments

Mike Johnson

I do hope this booster shot process will be more fairly and logically organized, and less byzantine, political, opaque, and selective than the first shots. That was a mess, and I suspect this will be as well, get ready for another confusing disaster from the NMDOH and MLG.

Barry Rabkin

Not sure what was byzantine, political, opaque, and selective about the first shots ... log into the portal, enter your age, medical condition, and other information ... and be sent a message (email or IM) regarding where to go and what day to go to get your first (and second shot). Very logical and organized. Not if you dislike or hate MLG, I suppose.

Mike Johnson

Let's see, first it was supposed to be older people first in line, but then younger people snuck in line ahead of us using bogus ailments, if you knew someone in the system, you could get a code, Denish admitted that, NM lagged all other states in 65+ vaccinations for months due to this cronyism and incompetence. Then when you get the email to text, if you immediately try to get an appointment they are all full and you wait for weeks for another try, no explanation of how any of it was working. Many traveled to Texas to get the shots, as that was open, simple, and easily available to us. It was a mess, you have a very short memory.

Richard Irell

Lots of folks who had risk factors got vaccinated in Texas and Colorado because they NM did not follow their own priority standards.

Sabine Strohem

@mike: we did better than virtually every other state with respect to process. Is there EVER a time you won't blame the current admin?

Mike Johnson

One more: https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/coronavirus/santa-fe-seniors-wonder-how-vaccines-are-distributed/article_4d0ed618-80ed-11eb-bb4e-afad4c80b97e.html

Comment deleted.
JB Weinberg

Mr. Johnson - Yes, there were issues and yet we still did better than most other states. Were you expecting perfection? If you want perfection, or closer to it, then I suggest you support increased funding for public health agencies - both from the Federal government and state governments. Public health funding has been on a steady decline for decades and public health agencies are now significantly underfunded and critically short of resources - both human and IT. Ironically, public health was the primary driver of the century-long increase in life expectancy in the 20th and 21st centuries in the US, up until the opioid epidemic hit and public health agencies were without sufficient resources to quickly and effectively address it. Public health is less expensive than the direct costs and the economic impacts of treating illness and situations like the opioid epidemic. Public health agencies are our first line of defense in disease outbreaks of all kinds. If public health agencies had been sufficiently funded for their mission over the past 40 years so that most people understood the value of their work, perhaps there would have been more public trust during this pandemic.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Weinberg, I totally agree our health care system in NM is in last place like everything else run by the politicians here. But that is not my fault, I did not vote for any of these clowns, those who did are responsible for a lack of funding and misplaced priorities. There seems to be no lack of funding for the other left wing priorities around the state, and if public health is so important, the politicians should be prioritizing it over all the other things they spend money on. Those in charge of this debacle of a government here cannot escape responsibility for all this mess.

Denise Jimenez


JB Weinberg

Mr. Johnson, I was not talking about our health care system, I was discussing public health. They are 2 different, though related, things. You can educate yourself about what public health is, if you care to, here: https://www.apha.org/what-is-public-health. As for what is your fault or isn't, public health funding comes from both federal and state sources and has been declining for at least the past 40 years, and Republicans and Democrats have both been in power for the last 40 years. Are you saying that you don't vote at all? Both parties are guilty of underfunding public health, as are the citizens for not demanding more funding for its vital work. But when a bunch of people don't want to pay taxes for the goods and services they take for granted, well...they won't get what they don't want to pay for, to the detriment of the rest of us. Whether you voted for the current crop or past crops of politicians, or not, you certainly do share some of the blame with the state of affairs today, along with the rest of us.

Mike Johnson

More stories about the confused, incompetent, and byzantine NMDOH and MLG system for the vaccinations, for those with short memories:




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