Updated: December 14, 2020 10:59 AM
Created: December 13, 2020 09:19 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is anticipating its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in the state Monday. Those doses will be stored in ultra-low temperature freezers at six facilities across the state before going to hospitals.
The amount of doses hospitals will receive depends on how many workers are employed, and how many doses the staff can confidently administer in five days—which is the window of time to give the shot once it’s thawed.
Officials from Lovelace said they’ll start Wednesday. UNM Hospital did not give a specific day for when they will begin vaccinations. Instead, a spokesperson sent the following statement:
"UNM Health continues to work with the state on distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Consistent with federal and state direction, we are preparing to vaccinate our frontline health care workers who are directly in contact with suspected or confirmed COVID patients. At this time we do not have more details to release. We appreciate the public continuing to do their part to reduce the spread by wearing a mask, staying socially distant and rethinking their holiday traditions to ensure they are COVID safe."
Health care workers who work directly with COVID-19 patients are up to receive the vaccine first.
"Those nursing staff taking care of those patients, the physicians and the advanced practice providers taking care of those patients, respiratory therapists, physical therapists who are actually providing care to those patients, those are the individuals that we're looking at first to vaccinate, the emergency room,” said Nancye Cole, Lovelace Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer.
The incoming 17,000 COVID-19 vaccines will not be the end all, be all solution for the pandemic. State health leaders said social distancing and mask-wearing will still continue until more people can get the vaccine.
"If we can just begin immunizing people and decreasing the side effects of this COVID virus and allow us to get back to life a little bit, I think it's going to make a big impact,” Cole said.
Health leaders said this vaccine is as safe as vaccines tend to be, which is why it received the green light from the FDA.
Amid the vaccine good news, there have also been fewer COVID-19 patients in hospitals recently, but health leaders said people should remain vigilant since they’re unsure what Christmas could bring.
"And I hate to even say it because I'm afraid I'll jinx it, but we've had a little bit of a quiet time the last few days as far as admissions of COVID-positive patients,” Cole said.
Cole said there’s room for optimism.
"A lot of us feel like the second surge was much worse than when the virus first came out, so the fact that we have a vaccine that's ready to be used is kind of exciting,” she said.
As more COVID-19 vaccines come to New Mexico, state officials will update who will receive them next. The next shipment is also expected to go to health care workers, and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office to ask if vaccinations will impact the state’s reopening if a certain number of New Mexicans are vaccinated. A spokesperson said it’s too soon to tell and sent the following statement:
"The COVID-19 vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel – but we aren't there yet. New Mexico is looking forward to being able to begin distributing vaccines to health care workers as soon as this week, but it will still be some time before there are enough vaccine doses available to immunize enough New Mexicans to be able to discuss relaxing safety precautions. There are a great many details still in flux as the state waits to hear on the approval of additional vaccines and how many doses the state will continue to receive. As that information continues to grow, the state will continue to factor it in to its pandemic modeling and public health evaluations. The existence of the vaccine is not an invitation to let our guard down – the vaccine is a tool, just like physical distancing and mask-wearing are tools, and we must continue using the tools we have to limit the spread of the virus and protect one another. The vaccine is a reminder that we are able to get through this – but every New Mexican has to hold on until it is more widely available and continue to do their part to save lives and keep New Mexico businesses open."
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