NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A third vaccine should be on the market very soon, and New Mexico health officials say they’re prepared to move quickly. On Friday, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee reviewed the safety and effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Tracie Collins, Secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health, said she is feeling very hopeful about it. “If you’re going to get COVID, you don’t want to end up in the hospital, you don’t want to die,” said Dr. Collins, during a February 25 news conference.
“The fact that you only need one shot of J&J and that efficacy together, it’s a good vaccine,” Dr. Collins added. The Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is next in line for final FDA approval by the weekend.
Despite its slightly lower efficacy than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, health officials say the benefits will outweigh the risks. Benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine include the fact that it can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, and only requires one shot.
“Keep in mind that all vaccines approved by the FDA are safe, and so we want to keep that on the radar as we think about the vaccine doses and making sure people get shots in arms,” explained Dr. Collins.
The U.S. expects only a few million doses to be shipped in the first week. It’s unclear exactly how many doses New Mexico will receive in that first Johnson & Johnson shipment.
“In our conversations with President Biden, they didn’t announce that they were changing the per capita, per rate of allocation, so I think that we can expect that for Johnson & Johnson,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, during a February 25 news conference. “We won’t know until they’re clear about how many are available.”
Gov. Lujan Grisham and Dr. Collins emphasized the state’s focus to ensure vaccine distribution is equitable. The state plans to focus efforts on getting vaccines to vulnerable populations, and places with high COVID-case loads.
“We look at areas where we’ve had spread or high case volumes, thinking again McKinley, Chaves and other counties,” explained Dr. Collins. “These are the factors, the social vulnerability, as well as high caseload, that we will use to determine how we allocate our doses moving forward.”
“The idea is that we’re gonna be looking within the counties at figuring out how to get the doses to the most vulnerable and the hardest hit,” Dr. Collins added.
“The more vaccines we get into arms, the safer everyone in this state is,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Bottom line.”
Dr. Collins said New Mexico is already expecting to receive an additional 7% in vaccine doses next week, for a total of more than 77,720 doses. Collins said New Mexico ranks number one in the country for efficiently distributing the vaccine so far. Nearly 20% of New Mexicans have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and more than 650,000 people are registered online with the state Department of Health.