NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s top health officials expect it will continue to get harder to put more COVID-19 vaccines in arms as time goes on. In response, the state is asking private medical practices to join in on the vaccination effort.
Announcing a new effort Wednesday, the New Mexico Department of Health, Aging and Long-Term Services, and Human Services are reaching out to primary care providers to get the practices enrolled as COVID-19 vaccine providers.
The move comes as the DOH said in a news conference Wednesday it’s turning toward smaller, more targeted vaccine events after months of mass vaccination clinics. The Department of Health believes primary care doctors will be a critical link in helping get more vaccinations out to the public.
“There are also (many) primary care providers out in private practice,” said Dr. Tracie Collins, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health. “Keep in mind, that whole trusted voice, the idea of someone who can get across to their patients the value of the vaccine, that’s your primary care provider.”
Collins says there are more than 1,500 primary care providers in New Mexico. Ideally, the state is hoping to all of them can be part of the effort of dispensing COVID-19 vaccines.
DOH is now encouraging those private practice providers to sign up on the state’s “Vaccine Provider Portal.” That website can be found at cv.nmhealth.org and ultimately allows for providers to access the registry of people who’ve signed up, wanting to get a vaccine.
Providers must have several agreements in place with the NMDOH as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The online portal allows providers to digitally complete, sign, and submit the required documentation.
“At this point in our COVID-19 vaccine distribution, no group is more important than primary health care providers,” said DOH Cabinet Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins in a press release. “Primary care providers have longstanding relationships with their patients and are ideally placed to hold open, trusting conversations and encourage vaccinations. To support that work, DOH encourages providers to enroll as COVID-19 vaccine providers – and DOH will let you the doses you need to reach your patients.”
The NMDOH said Wednesday there isn’t a particular vaccine they’ll be sending primary care doctors. Instead, state health officials say it will be up to medical providers to work with the state to determine what works best for their practice.
Ultimately, the state says this is another push to make the COVID vaccine as readily available as flu shots have been in recent years. “When you have the flu shot available, you ask them if they want it, yes, very similar to that,” said Dr. Tracie Collins.
“We’re going to have the opportunity for, while a patient is there, to say, ‘Have you received your vaccine? Would you like it? These are the values,’ and we can get a shot in the arm right there during their visit,” Collins said.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the three large Albuquerque hospitals Wednesday to see if this will change their COVID vaccination practices. A spokeswoman for Presbyterian said it “already offers vaccines to patients” in some of their primary and specialty care clinics. The hospital said it was “looking to expand” its vaccination options related to primary care appointments.
A spokesman for UNMH told KRQE News 13, “the multidisciplinary vaccine committee of University of New Mexico Hospital is currently working on plans for administering the vaccine at future sites, including in the primary care setting at UNMH.”
In two weeks, New Mexico’s Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart is expected to address the push to get more vaccinations for schools, and if vaccines may change any of the rules currently in place.