NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Booking an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine has never been easier in New Mexico. The Department of Health opened up self-scheduling for everyone 16 and older, with a big push to get young students vaccinated.
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With three COVID-19 vaccines on the market now, the Department of Health says vaccine supply has officially exceeded demand in the state. State health officials are hopeful more young people will sign up to get a shot.
Young, healthy New Mexicans were some of the last to become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. “I work in a locally owned restaurant here, and I am planning on going out of state for college, so I just wanted to get my vaccine,” said Katelyn Ehrlich, a high school senior.
“It’s everybody’s turn now,” said Matt Bieber, Communications Director for the New Mexico Department of Health. “There’s no line, there’s no waiting. If you want a shot, you can get one.”
Bieber said as of Monday, April 26, 17,693 teens ages 16 and 17 are registered for a COVID vaccine statewide. Out of that registered group, 50% has at least one shot, Bieber added. “You know, school lets out relatively soon,” said Bieber. “So the more we can do while school’s in session to reach, communicate with, answer questions from, and then vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds, the better,” he added.
The NMDOH didn’t have an exact number of how many 16 and 17-year-olds there are in New Mexico, or what the vaccine acceptance rate for that age group is looking like so far. Polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 34% of people 18-29 said they’ll get vaccinated as soon as possible, while 25% fell into the ‘wait and see’ category.
Teens in New Mexico no longer need a parent with them and can bring a signed consent form to their COVID vaccine appointment. Expo New Mexico is hosting a vaccine clinic for Albuquerque Public Schools students and their families this week.
While getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is not required for schools in New Mexico, APS’ Interim Chief Operations Officer, Gabriella Blakey, said there are plenty of incentives for students to get vaccinated. “Students that are traveling are looking at having the vaccine, students that don’t want to be quarantined are looking at being vaccinated,” Blakey said.
Blakey said the vaccine has drastically reduced the number of positive COVID cases among school staff. “We’ve seen what it does for adults and knowing that can happen for our teens is really exciting too,” said Blakey.
A large incentive, Blakey added, is that vaccinated students and staff are not required to quarantine for two weeks if they come into contact with a positive COVID case unless they show symptoms. That will reduce the number of forced school shutdowns, Blakey said.
Bieber said at this point, vaccine supply now exceeds demand in New Mexico. The state is ordering just 75% of what it used to. “We are no longer ordering our full allotment from the federal government because we don’t need it,” said Bieber. “That number may change as we encourage more folks to get vaccinated, and as more folks just learn about the vaccination opportunities.”
Blakey said APS is not receiving district-specific numbers on how many students are getting a vaccine. However, the NMDOH is tracking statewide numbers.
Right now, Pfizer is the only vaccine available to 16 and 17-year-olds. Anyone scheduling an appointment through the NMDOH vaccine portal can now see which places have specific vaccines before they arrive.