ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Up to 30% of medical staff in New Mexico’s largest hospitals have declined the COVID-19 vaccine so far, health officials said. The New Mexico Department of Health wasn’t alarmed that more than a quarter of hospital workers in the state were refusing the shots, spokesman Matt Bieber said in an email Tuesday.
“The United States’ vaccination effort has only been underway for a month,” Bieber said. “DOH expects that hesitancy will decline over time. Polls indicate that things are trending in this direction.” About 70% to 75% of health workers at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center have accepted a vaccine, said Dr. David Gonzales, chief medical officer.
“There was a subgroup of other workers who wanted to see how the first (employees to receive the vaccine) did,” Gonzales said, noting that some workers did not receive a dose. “After they saw that they did well and their side effects were minimal after the first dose, then the rest of our workforce started signing up for their vaccinations.”
The state plans to continue distributing the vaccine in phases. The vaccine is now going to people 75 or older, those with conditions that make them more at risk, and people who work in certain front-line essential businesses.
Health officials say they hope to reach a 100% vaccination rate among hospitals in the state. In the meantime, they urge people to keep following safety precautions, including wearing facial coverings, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
The health department reported 20 deaths and 691 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and some people can be infected without showing symptoms.