NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s health secretary testified before U.S. senators about sharing vaccine information with the public. Dr. Tracie Collins appeared before a Senate subcommittee in a hearing called “Shot of Truth: Communicating Trusted Vaccine Information,” on Thursday, April 15 to discuss how New Mexico has vaccinated so many people and how it’s working to get those who are resistant to do so.
“Over three million Americans weren’t sure if they would receive the vaccine due to fears of how much it would cost. They’re worried about the cost of a free vaccine,” said New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan. The Congressional subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband met to make sure Americans are getting reliable information on the vaccine and its availability through the media.
While New Mexico is leading the nation in vaccination efforts, it’s reached a point in where some communities there is more supply than demand. Of the nearly 1.7 million New Mexicans eligible for the vaccine, about 858,000 have registered leaving 848,000 people unregistered. Other states face an even bigger challenge.
Secretary Collins says the state continues to work to reach out to residents and convince them the vaccine is safe. This includes new YouTube videos featuring New Mexicans.
“These videos available in multiple languages, allow New Mexicans to address one another about their experiences with the vaccine, to speak their minds, and share from the heart. The videos have thousands of views and more volunteers each week,” said Collins. For every COVID-19 case in New Mexico, 92 others are vaccinated.
The vaccination dashboard shows nearly 54% of New Mexico’s population received at least one vaccination and about 36% are fully vaccinated. Collins stated that due to New Mexico’s vaccine equity plan, the numbers of vaccinated individuals include high proportions of minority and socially vulnerable communities.
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Collins credited the governor and other state leaders for the weekly and biweekly coronavirus press conference that are widely viewed by residents. Federal funding has also allowed the Department of Health to hire two additional communications specialists with one who focuses specifically on outreach to communities of color.
New Mexico has also used FEMA support to create a multi-agency Incident Command Structure which includes a Joint Information Center that is made up of public information officers, emergency management personnel, hotline staff, and additional communicators. Collins explained that the JIC is divided into eight teams with one that follows rumors, misinformation, and other vaccine communication challenges and another team that designs communications materials to meet those challenges.
Collins also highlighted the department’s Office of Health Equity which translates COVID-related materials into Spanish, Vietnamese, Dine/Navajo, and Arabic.