The success of vaccinations in helping blunt COVID-19 is reason to be optimistic the worst of the pandemic is over. It’s also evidence of the mantra of these past 12 months: “Trust the science.”

And science, through effective vaccinations, seems to be delivering the nation from misery, isolation and suffering.

But this, as President Joe Biden said last week, “is not the time to relax.” To that end, he is planning to spend $86 million to send 25 million masks to people all across the nation. He is making it clear, by example and with his words, that Americans should continue to wear masks, remain at a distance from each other and keep washing or disinfecting their hands.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense plan to start distributing high-quality cloth masks to some 1,300 community health centers as well as 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in March, according to the White House.

In addition to delivering 100 million shots in 100 days, one of Biden’s goals for the early days of his administration was to persuade all Americans to wear a mask. This basic public health strategy — masking up will slow the spread of germs — somehow became a partisan football, with too many fumbling this undeniable truth. Masks sent across the country will help people do the right thing.

Even as prospects for the end of the pandemic are improving, the underlying message — don’t let up — needs to resonate.

In New Mexico, a briefing Thursday brought similar good news about COVID-19. Cases are down, as are hospitalizations. Deaths are decreasing.

And despite individual complaints and concerns, the vaccination rollout in New Mexico is proceeding at a fast pace, with 1 in 10 New Mexicans fully vaccinated and about 20 percent of people receiving the first shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks New Mexico first in the country in using its doses efficiently. CDC numbers from Friday show New Mexico has received 705,015 doses and administered 634,845, for a 90.05 percent rate of distributing vaccines.

New Mexico can be proud of this record, but officials need to continue to ensure the most vulnerable people are getting their shots. Finding those people is important, which appears to be the goal of a new Department of Health program unveiled last week.

Department of Health Secretary Tracie Collins said the state is starting more targeted approaches, increasing shots to seniors by 10 percent over the next two weeks. Clinics will be scheduled locally. Mobile vaccination clinics will be dispatched and providers will reach out to patients. That’s critical, especially for seniors who live independently and might have trouble making it to a clinic.

The state also is going to do more to deliver vaccinations to other vulnerable populations, people more at risk from serious consequences should they catch the virus.

We would encourage the Department of Health to keep reminding all New Mexicans how many people are eligible for shots right now. Vaccinating all who currently are eligible will take weeks. One reason New Mexico’s COVID-19 restrictions were tougher than other states is that we have tens of thousands who suffer from underlying conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. Many people are eligible right now, and processing all who want vaccinations is going to take time.

Reaching everyone is a huge project, both nationally and at the state level. Until more vaccination doses are produced, delays will be common. But the vaccines are coming, and that’s another sign of hope.

As vaccination distribution continues, everyone can give the science time to work by wearing masks and staying distanced — especially with new, potentially more infectious strains of COVID-19 now evident. The nation is emerging from what has been a horrible year of loss, isolation and financial struggle. Now is no time to let up.

(3) comments

Lee DiFiore

Health policies by the NM governor, including vaccinations, have long since turned away from "the science" and are now based purely on politics and power, period.

Mike Johnson

If you think following the science also means following CDC recommendations and guidelines, then NM is NOT following the science. CDC said that all 65+ people be prioritized in the first group vaccinated. NM, along with a couple of other backward states, refused that and is doing it their way, 75+ and 16+ with easily faked "conditions". As a result, while over 50% of 65+ people have gotten shots in America so far, in NM the figure is less than 30%. This is wrong, unscientific, and just politics played by the Guv and her so-called "health professionals", who make up their own rules.

Elizabeth Garside

I am all for wearing masks, now and in future. And it is great that this state is effective in using most of the vaccine it gets. But this editorial glosses over the fact that many states — including those with high populations of risk, heavily rural populations and just plain lots and lots of people — are now delivering vaccine to people 55 and over. New Mexico remains stuck at 75 and over. This is not to take a potshot at the DOH. This is to say that this state has a woefully underpowered health system, both public and private. “Fix the Health Gap Covid Has Underlined”would be a superb topic for an editorial, and an even better topic for investment and policy support.

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