NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico is in its second phase of distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. And as the state’s top doctor explained, if supply can keep up, health officials are hoping to distribute up to 8,000 vaccines per day.
Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said he was excited to receive his second shot on Tuesday. He said he’s hopeful to have most of the state’s population protected against the virus in the coming months. “I’d like to see 70% of our population immune,” explained Dr. Scrase. “My main worry is whether we’ll have the supply, whether it’ll steadily come into the state.”
According to the Department of Health’s running total, so far nearly 7% of New Mexico’s population has been infected with COVID-19. Just over 3% of the state’s population has taken a COVID-19 vaccine, and thousands more are lined up to get vaccinated. “We think that group of Lovelace, University, Presbyterian, Christus St. Vincent, could potentially be delivering 8,000 vaccines a day in another month as we get ramped up,” Dr. Scrase explained. “Now that depends on having enough supply to do that.”
If supply can keep up, Dr. Scrase is hopeful to distribute more than a million vaccines statewide in the next six months, and get most of New Mexico’s population protected against COVID-19. To date, the virus has killed hundreds of thousands of people across the country, and upended lives across the globe. “Morale was really low, you know nine months of caring for coronavirus patients, having 20% of them who are hospitalized die – has been very very difficult,” said Dr. Scrase.
The current vaccine phase includes people 75 and older, those at risk of COVID complications, teachers, public safety staff, and frontline essential workers. A practicing physician, Dr. Scrase is scheduled to receive his second round of the vaccine on Tuesday. He said he’s feeling hopeful for 2021. “People have a new energy, a new esprit de corps, a new commitment to getting us through this whole pandemic,” said Dr. Scrase. He’s encouraging the public to sign up for the vaccine and support the state’s local healthcare workers. “I think the toughest period for them is gonna be the next couple of months.”
Since the vaccine trials only had two months worth of data before the FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S., health officials are still studying how long protection against the virus lasts. Dr. Scrase said the answers to those questions about immunity are being discovered in real-time. When it comes to historical viral immunity, he pointed back to the Spanish Flu. “A big pandemic occurred 102 years ago, and we’re still now getting the influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Scrase. “So, it’s possible that this will become a normal fall routine worldwide, administer a coronavirus booster vaccine like we do for influenza, but nobody really knows just yet.”
At this point, researchers are confident that most people who’ve contracted COVID-19 develop some immunity from the virus for at least 90 days, and then antibodies decline. Dr. Scrase said scientists should have a better idea by the summer about how long vaccine protection lasts, from people who took the COVID-19 vaccine first.
The state doctor also warned, neither getting the vaccine nor contracting the virus should give anyone a pass to think they’re ‘bulletproof,’ and encourages everyone to wear a mask and follow public health orders. “We still have to observe all the same precautions and all the same care for the sake of all the rest of New Mexicans,” said Dr. Scrase. “And even for those folks who ultimately may decide to not get a vaccine at all, until we get up to that 70% level.”
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