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Official: Many in New Mexico eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

January 12, 2021 GMT
This Dec. 16, 2020 image provided by UNM Health shows a bin of COVID-19 vaccines for the first round of health care workers to be vaccinated at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, N.M. (UNM Health via AP)
This Dec. 16, 2020 image provided by UNM Health shows a bin of COVID-19 vaccines for the first round of health care workers to be vaccinated at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, N.M. (UNM Health via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A significant number of New Mexico residents are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations because they have one or more preexisting medical conditions, the state health secretary said Monday.

The state recently expanded vaccine eligibility to those 75 and older and anyone over 16 who is considered to be at greater risk because they have cancer, kidney disease, heart problems or other chronic illnesses. Front-line essential workers like grocery store employees and educators who can’t work remotely also are on the list.

Dr. Tracie Collins, the health secretary, urged people to be patient because vaccine supplies are still limited. She added that the state is being flexible with providers to ensure doses aren’t wasted.

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“We want to vaccinate as many as we can, and right now, we’re dependent upon what the supply is. It’s not based on demand,” she said. “As we have more supply, we’ll push out more vaccine.”

More than 170,000 doses have been shipped to New Mexico and over 78,000 of those having been administered, according to state and federal tracking data. That puts the state among the top in the nation when it comes to vaccine distribution.

Nearly one-third of the vaccinations already distributed have gone to health care workers with three of New Mexico’s major hospital networks.

Top medical officials with the University of New Mexico Hospital, Presbyterian Healthcare Services and Lovelace Health System said in an online briefing Monday that they’re working with state health officials as more people become eligible for the shots.

“The rollout of the vaccination program so far, including Phase 1A for health care workers, has been incredibly smooth and is going very well,” said Dr. David Pitcher, UNM Health System executive physician. “It gives us all in health care a great hope that we are going to be able to continue to serve the needs for New Mexicans as they face this ongoing pandemic crisis.”

More than 10,000 shots have been given to the UNMH workforce, Pitcher said.

The state on Friday released its updated plan for distribution. It details how people will be prioritized based on medical conditions and other risk factors.

The vaccinations come as the state has seen an uptick in the weekly average of confirmed COVID-19 infections. The rate of spread also remains above the target set by the state.

New Mexico health officials on Monday reported an additional 933 infections, bringing the total to more than 157,000. That includes six new cases among inmates at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County.

Inmates at county and state lockups are among those now eligible for vaccines, but Collins noted that they still fall behind those with at least one preexisting condition.

Health officials on Monday also reported a statewide total of 2,764 deaths related to the pandemic.