Updated: December 03, 2020 10:21 PM
Created: December 03, 2020 09:12 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- After the news broke Thursday that Pfizer is sending more than 17,000 doses of its vaccine to New Mexico by the end of the month, pending FDA approval, many began wondering who will get the shot first.
The New Mexico Department of Health is responsible for making the decision, and it’s taking input from other sources, including health care leaders, other state agencies and tribal leaders.
The NMDOH detailed its initial plans in October, and provided more clarity Thursday.
The first rollout, called Early Phase 1, calls for health care workers and nursing home residents to be the first to get the vaccine.
Health care workers include those who administer the vaccine and first responders. The NMDOH lists: EMS and fire, paramedics, staff at free-standing emergency departments, urgent care staff and personnel who conduct COVID-19 testing.
Those who have direct contact with COVID-positive patients, or those who work in places where there’s a high risk to spread the virus to vulnerable populations, will take priority. That would include staff and health care providers at: nursing homes and assisted living facilities, COVID-19 shelters, developmental disability providers in group home settings, staff at youth, domestic violence and homeless shelters, and correctional and juvenile justice health are providers and staff.
A spokesperson says the amount of vaccines New Mexico appears to be getting is not enough to go beyond that over the next several weeks.
Then, there’s Late phase 1, which includes two groups. One is residents of other group care settings, like: homeless shelters, county adult and juvenile detention centers, jails and prisons, group homes for people with developmental disabilities and residential treatment centers.
The other group is other health care workers, including any staff with patient contact, not just licensed clinicians. That could include workers at pharmacies, dialysis centers, dental offices, rehabilitation centers, and health care providers who provide services to pregnant women, pediatricians, other primary care providers, and specialists, including those who perform outpatient procedures and surgeries.
So who’s after that?
The state is working to identify New Mexicans who are the most at risk of facing serious illness from COVID-19, and they’ll get priority. Essential workers may too.
The rest isn’t decided yet.
A spokesperson for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the plan has her support.
Many groups want a say, including Republican state lawmakers. Sen. Ron Griggs, (R) District 34, represents southeast New Mexico.
“Our interests, our needs, may be different than other parts of the state, and we would certainly like our voices to be considered,” Griggs said.
The NMDOH started a 50-member Vaccine Advisory Group, which includes health care leaders.
State spokesperson Matt Nerzig says two factors for who will take priority are when the state gets more and how much it gets.
The initial amount, “is less than we were first told by the federal government and we have adjusted plans accordingly to prioritize hospitals,” Nerzig said.
“The initial shipment of vaccine will certainly not be enough to cover all health care workers and staff, not even the highest priority ones. This is an important and life saving start, but just a start. We have a long way to go,” he said.
So who will actually be administering these vaccines?
First, it’ll be experienced vaccine providers that can also store it, so mostly hospitals. There may be large events to give out hundreds of doses or mobile clinics. As our state gets more of it, smaller health centers and some pharmacies may get involved.
Down the road, current COVID testing sites could be used as mass vaccination sites.
The Department of Health says it will continue to update their plans.
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