New Mexico hospitals expecting most staff to receive COVID-19 vaccine within 2-3 weeks

Coronavirus New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Another 12,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to New Mexico healthcare workers this week and some New Mexico hospitals hope they won’t need much more. While some say they’re busy vaccinating any staff, others with higher staffing like UNM Hospital are focusing on people who work directly with COVID-positive patients, before giving vaccines to the rest of their employees.

“We have a very large health system with many workers,” said Dr. Rohini McKee with UNM Hospital. “It doesn’t matter what you do — if you’re a physical therapist or you’re cleaning the room, you’re a physician or a nurse, as long as you’re coming into contact with the COVID-positive population, you are first in line.”

Across the board, about a third of each hospital’s patient-care staff has received the COVID vaccine. Another 12,675 doses heading to hospitals like Presbyterian and UNMH, along with some going to the Department of Health warehouse where they will then distribute to those like CHRISTUS St. Vincent, Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces and San Juan Regional in Farmington, between Dec. 21 and Dec. 22. Hospital leaders are stressing that there are still a lot of unknowns about the vaccine and those who get it should still be vigilant.

“It is quite possible we could be carrying it and not responding to it because we’ve been vaccinated,” said Dr. David Gonzales with CHRISTUS St. Vincent. “So to protect those around us, full PPE, our current PPE guidelines should remain in place.”

Hospitals in the Albuquerque area say, so far, there have been no severe reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. As a precaution, UNMH is even requiring anyone who gets the vaccine to stick around another 15 minutes for observation. Others may not require the vaccine at all, as hospital policy. “As an employer, we at Presbyterian do not require our workforce to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Denise Gonzales with Presbyterian. “Although, we do strongly encourage it.”

Area hospitals plan to have their patient-care staff all vaccinated within the next 2-3 weeks, with second doses given within the next 4-6 weeks. The state says more than 31,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will also roll out in the next couple of days, this time to vaccinate staff and residents at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

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