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New Mexico vaccine clinic stops giving shots temporarily

February 2, 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)
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)
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) — One of New Mexico’s largest vaccination clinics will hit the pause button this week and temporarily stop giving vaccines after administering shots for more than a week, citing limited supplies. But state officials expect an increase in vaccine deliveries in coming weeks.

Officials with University of New Mexico Health Sciences said they want to ensure they have enough vaccines to to give booster shots to people who already received their first shots. The clinic at the university’s arena, also known as The Pit, is expected to be closed Tuesday through Saturday.

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“This is just a pause so I really want to stress that The Pit will be a vaccination clinic in the future,” spokeswoman Alex Sanchez said last Friday.

The clinic was administering around 1,600 doses per day, with a goal of eventually hitting 3,000 shots daily. Sandoval said the intent is still to hit that mark as soon as more vaccine doses are available.

State officials said Monday that they are not aware of any other providers planning to halt vaccination operations this week.

New Mexico is receiving about 56,000 doses per week. That’s expected to continue over the next three weeks, representing a 16% increase in allocations, said Matt Bieber, a spokesman with the New Mexico Department of Health.

Those doses are being distributed to an ever-expanding network of providers around the state, he said.

“As a result of New Mexico’s successful early distribution efforts — we’re getting vaccine into arms faster than 47 states — we’ve learned that our state can handle a far bigger allocation from the federal government, and we’re advocating for it,” he said in an email.

Data from the state Health Department shows that 99% of the 278,800 doses that have been shipped to New Mexico so far have been administered. That includes more than 62,000 in the last seven days.

The department has expanded its vaccine dashboard to include county-by-county vaccination numbers and new distribution maps.

State health officials, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation and others have been pointing the program’s success as a reason that the Biden administration should increase the allocation.

Still, Sanchez reiterated the importance of being able to administer booster shots within the recommended time period. State data shows nearly 61,500 people have received their second shots while the number of those getting their first continues to grow.

State health officials on Monday confirmed they would follow guidance and expand the window for administering the second dose from 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine to 6 weeks, although the doses should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible.

About one-quarter of New Mexico’s population has registered with the state to receive vaccinations.

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Under the plan, health care workers, first responders and residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities were among the first to get inoculated. The current phase includes people 75 and older and younger people with preexisting health conditions that put them at greater risk.

Grocery store employees and other essential workers who are unable to work remotely are next on the list, with the state expecting to begin vaccinations for the general public around midyear.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico since the pandemic began last year have topped 174,550, with an additional 487 cases reported Monday.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has been dropping in recent weeks while the rolling average of daily deaths was nearly flat.