ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While demand for the COVID-19 vaccine continues to outweigh supply coming into New Mexico, the state is working toward a plan on how to overcome the eventuality of how to deal with vaccine hesitancy. As of March 23, nearly 39% of New Mexicans have received at least one shot of the COVID vaccine.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, according to some national polls around 30% or nearly one-third of American adults combined say they either “probably” or “definitely” would not get a vaccine. While there is limited state-specific data surrounding possible vaccine hesitancy in New Mexico, in a recent interview with KRQE News 13, New Mexico Department of Health Communications Director Matt Bieber acknowledged the state approach toward the topic.
“I don’t think it’s right to think about ‘x’ number of people that’ll just never listen’ and never engage and are going to refuse (the vaccine) until the end of time, I think it’s more than that. Bieber said. “Folks are paying attention, they’re asking questions, they’re observing and we’re seeing more and more eagerness over time and we’re seeing resistance drop.”
Hoping to drive down vaccine resistance, the DOH has in part launched a series of social media videos called “Trusted Voices.” Posted on the NMDOH’s Facebook and Instagram channels, the videos are short testimonials from medical professionals, people who’ve been vaccinated or other leaders who have messages about the importance of vaccines.
In all, about 1.68-million New Mexicans are old enough to get the COVID vaccine, which is for people 16 and older. Under the state’s current phasing, the state says roughly 1.62-million New Mexicans aged 16 and older are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine.
Nationally, a recent Pew Research Center poll indicated about 15% of U.S. adults say they “probably” wouldn’t get a COVID vaccine, while another 15% of U.S. adults say they “definitely” wouldn’t get the vaccine. Those figures might be different for New Mexico.
At a recent news conference, a Deputy Director for the New Mexico Department of Health Laura Parajon said recent polling research conducted by Presbyterian Healthcare Services indicates growth in vaccine acceptance over the last few months. Parajon said Presbyterian’s study indicates “at the beginning of the vaccine,” there was around a “40% desire to get vaccine” in New Mexico. As of mid-March, that figure is now “almost up to 79% of people,” according to Parajon.
“One of the things that we are seeing is that there is a little bit more reduction of people uptaking (the vaccine) in the rural communities,” Parajon said. “We’re actually examining that right now, working with our providers.”
KRQE News 13 contacted Presbyterian about the agency’s poll results Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Presbyterian said in part, “We are currently looking into vaccine hesitancy in specific populations and expect polling results in the coming weeks.”
KRQE News 13 asked the state if vaccine acceptance rates might eventually play into how or when the state makes changes to the mask mandate, capacity limits inside businesses, or business reopening criteria. The Department of Health didn’t have an immediate answer but said its expanding efforts to take questions from people concerned about vaccines.
Part of the state’s vaccine confidence efforts includes live townhall sessions online. The DOH is planning to hold another live question and answer session on Friday, March 26 live on the department’s Facebook page.