NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – All New Mexicans ages 16 and older are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, the state is making a push to get more younger people signed up. Nearly a month ahead of its goal, New Mexico’s Department of Health opened up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all New Mexicans ages 16 and older; That’s 1.68 million people.
“We were directed to get there by the President by May 1 along with all other states,” explained Matt Bieber, Communications Director for the New Mexico Department of Health. “We’re getting there about a month early, and we’re doing so in part because New Mexico has been so efficient in vaccine distribution.”
Bieber said the state is aiming for another milestone. “Our goal is to get to a million registrations as soon as we possibly can,” he said. A big portion of that goal, Bieber explained, will be reaching more younger people and getting them to sign up for the vaccine. “We know for example that young people have registered in low numbers so far than older folks and understandably, they haven’t been eligible in many cases for vaccine until pretty recently,” said Bieber.
Overall, New Mexico leads the country in vaccine distribution. Nearly 50% of those eligible have received at least one shot and more than 30% are considered fully vaccinated.
Manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna are also running trials on younger children, increasing hopes of reaching ‘herd immunity,’ meaning a majority of people have some immunity from the virus. “The best science seems to indicate that it’s pretty high – something like 70 or 80%, maybe a little more,” Bieber said.
“So yes, if we’re gonna hit that percentage or those kinds of percentages, we’re gonna need young people in the mix,” Bieber added.
He explained the state is still prioritizing older people and those with chronic conditions. Depending on where people live in the state, younger, healthier people should be getting appointments soon. The state is also moving away from ‘event codes’ to allow more people to schedule shots at their convenience. “In the next couple of weeks most likely we will open up ‘open scheduling’ for everybody,” said Bieber.
New Mexico is expecting 130,000 doses of vaccine this week, which includes 30,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.