SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — It’s too early to say whether a COVID-19 vaccine — once available — will be mandatory for certain people in the state, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is indicating that health care workers, educators, nursing home residents and emergency responders could be among those required to be inoculated. Acknowledging uncertainties about the availability and effectiveness of a vaccine, the Democratic governor said she expects a debate over mandating certain groups of people to accept the vaccine.
Her comments came during a recent briefing as pharmaceutical companies race to have a vaccine ready by early next year.
The governor’s administration has authority under a 2003 state law to issue vaccine orders during a declared public health emergency. The Albuquerque Journal reported that those who decline a vaccine for reasons of health, religion or conscience can be ordered to isolate or self-quarantine under the same law.
The governor’s office did not say whether the Lujan Grisham administration would invoke that law once a coronavirus vaccine is available. “The overall key point is that the more people who get a vaccine, the safer we all are as a group,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said. “That’s going to be the underlying principle here no matter what the vaccine ultimately looks like.”
As a starting point, the state would use existing recommendations for the flu vaccine to guide the coronavirus vaccine plan. Republican Rep. Gregg Schmedes, a physician from Tijeras, said any state-level attempts to mandate inoculation for certain groups or individuals would likely generate pushback.
“I don’t think the government should be telling people what they have to put in their bodies,” he said Monday.
New Mexico has seen its daily COVID-19 case counts improve in recent days. On Tuesday, health officials reported an additional 79 cases to bring the total since the pandemic began to 23,579. About half of New Mexico counties reported additional cases, with Bernalillo County topping the list at 20 cases for the day.
Five deaths were also reported Tuesday, bringing that total to 723.