ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials at some of New Mexico’s largest hospitals said Monday they are holding out hope that vaccine supplies will catch up with demand as state health officials confirmed that some pharmacies would begin receiving shipments this week.
Nearly 600,000 residents have registered online to be vaccinated, but health care officials and the state Health Department acknowledge that demand is far outpacing current supplies. Some older New Mexicans and those with pre-existing health concerns that put them at greater risk have been waiting for weeks.
State health officials have acknowledged that residents in search of vaccines have been going to Texas, where individual clinics have been vaccinating people on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Dr. Denise Gonzales, medical director for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said providers are asking people to be patient but that they wouldn't discourage someone from traveling outside the state for a vaccination if they had the means to do so.
“Just remember, what we're trying to achieve for our state that we love and all of our people is an equitable approach to vaccination that's collaborative across the entire state,” Gonzales said.
New Mexico has expanded eligibility beyond initial categories such as medical personnel, nursing home residents and staff to include all people over 75 and other adults at high risk of several health complications from the virus. That opens up a huge eligible population of roughly 900,000 people, within a state of 2.1 million, who will take several months to vaccinate even as the supply chain expands.
Officials at University of New Mexico Hospital and Lovelace in Albuquerque as well as Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe said they are all ready to ramp up vaccinations as soon as supplies grow. They pointed to increased production and new vaccines that will be hitting the market, saying anticipation is high that supply and demand pressures will ease.
On Monday, the New Mexico Department of Health confirmed Walgreens and other pharmacies in the state would begin receiving vaccine shipments this week under a federal plan aimed at boosting distribution.
About 89,200 state residents have been fully vaccinated — or about 4.2% of the population. An estimated 342,000 people have received just the first shot out of two.
About 9,000 shots are being administered per day statewide. At the University of New Mexico's basketball arena, known as The Pit, officials plan to administer about 1,600 shots a day this week and under 1,000 shots next week based on supply forecasts.
The vaccination rollout comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop. On Monday, New Mexico reported its lowest daily case count in nearly four months.