NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s been nine months since the first COVID-19 case hit New Mexico. On Monday, the first coronavirus vaccines arrived and were administered in the state. So how does the state determine who gets vaccinated first? The state’s top doctor explained each factor the state is taking into consideration with a limited supply. “Having healthcare workers vaccinated first is gonna be a great relief to our hospital system in particular,” explained Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the Human Services Department.

In record timing for vaccine development, the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are officially in New Mexico under emergency use authorization from the FDA. “The vaccine does seem to be quite effective in preventing coronavirus infections, that’s very, very positive,” said Dr. Scrase.

It’s new hope in a grim pandemic. However, only a small minority of the population will be vaccinated first. New Mexico is set to receive 17,550 initial doses. “I think that there’s wisdom in all the guidelines that are out there about the order of vaccination,” said Dr. Scrase.

According to New Mexico’s vaccine rollout plan, the state’s first priority is hospital workers at high risk of infection, whether that be through contact with patients or handling of infectious materials. That includes nurses, doctors, lab techs, and emergency medical service personnel. “The second vaccine that we expect to get FDA approval is from Moderna,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, during a December 10 news conference. If approved, Moderna’s vaccine could be available before Christmas.

“Those vaccines are slated for nursing home residents and staff, and it’s gonna be like that 17,000 allocations,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “It isn’t gonna be enough to do every CNA, Certified Nurse Aide, every staff person at a nursing home, and every resident.”

Next on the list is essential workers, which include childcare workers, police officers, and first responders. “I think the thinking there is a combination of multiple factors, to reduce overall mortality, and overall chronic complications from coronavirus,” Dr. Scrase explained.

Those vaccinated on Monday won’t be fully vaccinated for another few weeks when they receive that second dose from Pfizer. Dr. Scrase said he’s hopeful that if supply keeps up, a vaccine will be more widely available to New Mexicans in the next couple of months.

As New Mexicans head into the end of 2020 with high daily COVID-19 case counts, there’s a new tool in the fight against coronavirus. “Today I feel some trepidation and some optimism, based on where we’re at with hospitals, and what we might see in the coming months with vaccination,” said Dr. Scrase.

Although they’re encouraged to opt-in, hospital administrators in Albuquerque said on Monday, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory for staff.

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