ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As more COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across Albuquerque, Mayor Tim Keller is urging people to take the opportunity to get vaccinated regardless of how it comes up. The mayor’s words come as phase 1B aims to vaccinate people over 75 years old, people over the age of 16 at risk of COVID complications, frontline workers, then vulnerable populations.
In a news conference Thursday, Keller acknowledged hearing a growing number of stories about people finding different channels to get vaccinated outside of the Department of Health’s main registration effort at vaccinenm.org. While saying people should continue to use the state portal as a way to sign up for COVID vaccination, Keller says those who are offered a shot should take the opportunity.
“The notion of 1A and 1B is strong guidance from the state, and it’s how people are trying to do things,” Keller said. “I also hear about all the different situations that are happening sometimes with these leftover batches where people are like, ‘I’ve got four vaccines, and we have to use them in six hours!’ I just want to emphasize I think one point: the important thing is to get vaccines in arms.”
The comments come as both Albuquerque and Rio Rancho schools canceled mass vaccination efforts this week over concerns of “equitable access.” In an email memo sent to Rio Rancho Public Schools staff, obtained by KRQE News 13, the district’s superintendent told employees, “the New Mexico Department of Health has determined that they need to cancel the event as it did not follow the order of the sub-phases in phase 1B.”
Sharing anecdotes about the vaccine rollout Thursday, Keller suggested some people in the metro-area are continuing to unexpectedly get access to vaccinations through other “channels” outside of the New Mexico Department of Health. The implication is that some people are getting vaccinated ahead of others outlined in the phase 1b category.
“I know of folks personally who are getting called by Walmart pharmacies and they’re saying, ‘hey, we’ve got some vaccines,’ I know people who are getting called perhaps by a private doctor or private provider saying, ‘hey, I’ve got some vaccines,’” Keller said. “We also know that for folks in government, there are different government channels as well for healthcare workers and first responders.
While saying the vaccine rollout won’t be perfect in getting shots out to everyone in the exact order the state has outlined, the Mayor pushed citizens Thursday to continue registering for the vaccine through the state’s official vaccinenm.org portal.
“We do know that over 30% of the people who have registered (through the state) have gotten the vaccine,” Keller said. “This is literally the primary and best way to get that vaccine is just make sure you’re registered.”
Keller very clearly did not endorse “line jumping” or using unconventional means to try to get a vaccine out of the state’s prescribed order in his comments during Thursday’s news conference. However, Keller also said people shouldn’t be turning down shots at this point if the opportunity arises.
“If you get the opportunity, you should take the shot, and then obviously when someone else calls you and says, ‘we have a shot ready,’ you should get out of that system so that someone else can get it,” Keller said. “I think we just need to remember, we’re in a crisis. We have a pandemic, and so I do expect a level of– you know, not everything is going to be totally perfect and consistent, and so forth. It’s just not the way crises work.”
Acknowledging some likely frustration in the community, Keller said it was important for everyone to understand that as long “shots are rolling out,” it’s a good thing. “As long as there’s a line around The Pit, I’m happy. Eventually, it will work itself out, and some of these details, I think in some ways, they’re unavoidable, I mean you’re trying to vaccinate America and that’s not going to happen perfectly, there’s going some bumps on the road.”
The city will eventually play a big role in phase two of the vaccine rollout, which is slated for the general public. That likely won’t happen until summer 2021. The city has already identified community centers and schools throughout the area where they will hold vaccine clinics.