4 Investigates: Vaccination Vacations
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —New Mexico continues to rank as one of the top states for administering the COVID-19 vaccine at a rate of almost 80,000 doses per week.
However, as weeks and months go by, patience for many people is wearing thin. Some New Mexicans are getting frustrated over having to wait for the vaccine, so they’re jumping state lines to get it faster.
Victoria Murphy of Santa Fe, New Mexico, made the 300-mile trip to a mass vaccination site in Amarillo, Texas, to get her initial dose and returned for her booster shot.
"I’m primary caretaker for my 90 year-young mother. And I wanted to make sure that we got her her shot, I got mine, and we were all safe… and I really didn’t want to wait till June or July," said Murphy.
Victoria made the trip with her husband Dennis and their family friend Rolf Wallemgref.
"When I found out about getting vaccinated here, I just thought, you know, I can do it. Why not?" said Wallemgref.
The group first heard about the walk-up vaccination clinic through word of mouth. No appointments were necessary and Texas residency was not required.
"I am just thrilled… I mean, we, like everybody else have been just baffled about how we’re going to do this and get it done," said Dennis Murphy.
A lot of New Mexicans had the same idea. The KOB 4 Investigates team spotted more than a dozen New Mexico license plates in the parking lot outside the vaccination site Texas.
However, Wallemgref admits not everyone is a fan of their tactics.
"I have heard—in Santa Fe—a lot of criticism about people coming here and taking shots," said Wallemgref.
However, Victoria is quick to point out: "If they didn’t want us here, they wouldn’t be allowing everybody from New Mexico, from Kansas, from Nebraska from Denver."
PATCHWORK VACCINE ROLL-OUT
Across the country, vaccination roll-out is truly a patchwork system. Each state has its own rules and its own timeline.
When it comes to the mass vaccination site in Amarillo, health officials report about 6% of all the vaccines administered have been given to people who live outside the Texas panhandle—that includes people from out of state.
"We vaccinate people regardless of where they live and we’re doing that because we are a hub," said Amarillo public health director Casie Stoughton, adding later: "We have to vaccinate equitably and we have to use all of the doses each week."
NEW MEXICO DOESN’T TRACK OUT OF STATE VACCINATIONS
It’s unclear how many New Mexicans are getting vaccinated elsewhere since the state health department doesn’t track that data.
However, just days ago—the state sent out a mass text alert asking New Mexicans who many have gotten vaccinated outside of the state’s system to report it and "help prioritize others who have not yet received appointments."
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has repeatedly highlighted New Mexico’s success in getting vaccines into arms. However, she also continues to stress the fact that the state’s vaccine registration program relies on the honor system.
"Everybody’s got to follow the rules," said Lujan Grisham during a recent COVID update.
While some New Mexicans may have taken more extreme measures to get the COVID-19 vaccine than others, Santa Fe resident Rolf Wallemgref finds comfort in having been fully vaccinated.
"We’re going to rest easier knowing that we’ve been vaccinated," said Wallemgref. "I would encourage everybody get the vaccine when you can … and in the meantime, just be safe."