Where New Mexico stands in reaching ‘herd immunity’

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – With vaccine distributions well underway and more in the pipeline, people are wondering when it’s possible to reach ‘herd immunity’ in New Mexico, especially if kids can’t be vaccinated yet. Nearly one year into the pandemic, New Mexico has finally eased some of the COVID-restrictions. “We’re doing pretty good, the numbers are going down,” said Mark Sanchez, a New Mexico resident. “I’m very hopeful.”

“It feels good to see more people out,” said Adrian Henre, who is also from New Mexico. “It’s weird to see everywhere you go desolate, like a ghost town.”

In order for life to return to a pre-pandemic normal, health officials have talked about reaching ‘herd immunity.’ The state would need a majority of the population protected against COVID, either with a vaccine or natural antibodies after contracting the virus.

“There’s kind of a debate in the scientific community about how many have to have immunity to have herd immunity,” explained Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the state’s Human Services Department. “Folks are talking 70%-80%.”

New Mexico’s population is about 2.1 million people. So far, roughly 16% of the population has had at least one dose of the vaccine. According to the state Department of Health, nearly 9% of the population has tested positive for COVID-19.

“When you add all those up there’s roughly a 2-1 ratio of the cases we don’t know about, to the cases we do,” explained Dr. Scrase. Adding in potential unconfirmed cases means more than 40% of New Mexico’s population could have some immunity.

KRQE News 13 asked Dr. Scrase if it’s possible to reach herd immunity in New Mexico without being able to vaccinate kids yet. He said since kids make up roughly 15-20% of the state’s population, it is possible if more adults get vaccinated soon.

“I would say though that I think we’re really hopeful that these manufacturers will be testing the vaccines in younger age groups and getting it to them,” said Dr. Scrase. Vaccine manufactures are in the early stages of testing children, but there is no vaccine on the market yet for kids under the age of 16.

Studies on a longer-lasting immunity after contracting COVID-19 are also proving hopeful. “I don’t know how long the immunity from an infection or the vaccine lasts, I don’t think anybody knows that,” said Dr. Scrase. “We are seeing people who do get reinfected, but it’s a small number,” he explained.

The state Department of Health as well as CDC guidelines still encourage anyone who’s had COVID to get a vaccine, but to wait 90 days to get the shot. According to the National Institutes of Health, immunity after recovering from COVID may last up to eight months.

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