ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After scant supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine kept one of the state’s largest vaccination clinics closed last week, University of New Mexico Health says it’s ready to start things up again. Meanwhile, several other of the state’s major hospitals say they’re planning plans for their own mass vaccination sites for when more vaccine supply is ready.
Starting Tuesday, UNMH says it expects to welcome another roughly 1,600 people a day to The Pit for COVID-19 vaccines. After vaccinating 28,000 people at the arena through January, UNMH paused vaccinations at the site all of last week due to low supplies.
On Monday afternoon, the state’s vaccine tracker website showed the state has stockpiled about 22,000 of the more than 364,000 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine received. UNMH says it hopes to continue its major five-day-a-week clinic at The Pit for at least the next two weeks.
“This week, we’re anticipating 1,600 doses per day,” said Dr. David Pitcher, UNM Health System’s Executive Physician. “It’s next week where we think where the supply may be a little bit lower, and that’s why we’re estimating a little less than 1,000 per day next week.”
During a news conference Monday, Pitcher said most of the vaccine to be given out at The Pit this week will be focused on second shots or so-called “booster doses.” Not as many “primary vaccinations” or new patients are expected to be inoculated this week.
As of Monday evening. the state’s online vaccine dashboard indicates as many as 163,672 people are currently waiting to receive a booster dose in New Mexico. The state is currently receiving about 59,500 new doses of the COVID-19 vaccine a week.
“I don’t think that… it would be unreasonable to except that we would exceed 2,000 doses per day if those can be provided to us,” Dr. David Pitcher said of UNMH’s mass vaccination effort. “But we’ll have to see, we have to remain flexible and adapt to the changing supply chain.”
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Meanwhile, leaders at major hospitals in the state say they’re seeing fewer COVID patients overall. However, many facilities are still dealing with a high number of patients die to putting off other medical care for months.
Aside from UNMH, hospitals like Lovelace, Presbyterian and CHRISTUS St. Vincent are all preparing to host their own vaccination clinics in the coming weeks and months. Presbyterian has identified its “Aloft Plaza” near Balloon Fiesta Park as a site it expects to use for vaccination.
“That will have the capacity to give vaccines at a rate in the thousands per day,” said Dr. Denise Gonzales, Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director. “We’re just waiting for vaccine but we have everything set up so that we can do a rapid registration of patients, so that we have share that data with the New Mexico site that gathers all the vaccination information.”
In Santa Fe, CHRISTUS St. Vincent also believes it could vaccine about 1,000 a day with an expanded vaccination effort. So far, the Santa Fe hospital has been getting about 1,000 doses per week.
“We do hope that when the supply becomes abundant, and we believe it will be in the next few weeks possibly with more than just the Moderna and Pfizer product, we would do larger mass vaccination clinics for the community,” said Dr. David Gonzales, CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer. “The state of New Mexico has also over 50 health offices that can deliver it as well as numerous community health centers around the state, so in collaboration with those entities along with the major health systems and also the spoke hospitals, I think you’ll see a very robust vaccination program once the supply arrives.”
One of the next possible COVID vaccines available could be Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine. The FDA is expected to take at least until February 26 to review the company’s data on the vaccine before any possible decision on its public use.
Monday’s COVID-19 discussion was lead by UNM Health System Executive Physician Dr. David Pitcher, Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales, Lovelace Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval, and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales. The medical experts are expected to address the state bi-weekly with news and updates about the virus and vaccination process.