Health officials from hospitals throughout the state encouraged New Mexicans to get vaccinated against three respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new vaccine for COVID, providers throughout the country will be able to provide the vaccination in the coming days. The New Mexico Department of Health advises anyone over the age of six months to get vaccinated for COVID and the flu.
New Mexico Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Miranda Durham said that the vaccines began to ship yesterday and “should be arriving in the state toward the end of the week.”
DOH no longer has a COVID vaccine registration website, and those seeking the vaccine can schedule directly with their provider or a pharmacy. However, DOH does provide an interactive map at vaccinenm.org where residents can find places to schedule their appointment.’
COVID numbers have increased in New Mexico and nationwide recently, which led to questions of whether those who recently have had COVID need to get the new vaccine.
Durham said those who currently have COVID should not travel to a site to get their vaccination. While there is no indication that there needs to be a wait after getting COVID, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said it was “reasonable to think about waiting up to three months after you’ve had COVID to get vaccinated.”
“That’s sort of a personal choice that you might decide what your level of risk is,” she said.
Those who are getting the COVID vaccine can get this year’s version of the flu vaccine at the same time.
The COVID vaccine has been given with the flu vaccine frequently, which Durham called “a tried and true combo.”
The RSV vaccine is newer and it isn’t clear what reactions it will have with the other two vaccines. But Dr. Denise Gonzales, the Medical Director of Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said, “from a practical standpoint, if you live somewhere rural, and it’s difficult for you to get somewhere, get them all at once because it’s safer for you to get them all into your body than to try to coordinate and do them at separate times.”
Christus St. Vincent Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales said that the population being vaccinated is particularly important for hospitals that serve rural populations.
“It’s important that we don’t oversaturate our rural community hospitals with illnesses that may be avoidable,” he said. “This puts a stress on the whole system, but most importantly, it leads to poor clinical outcomes.”
Rural areas tend to have lower vaccination rates, which Gonzales said is likely because of the distance from their primary care providers.
Another reason for low vaccination rates in general is vaccine hesitancy, which Lovelace Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval said the World Health Organization estimated led to five million deaths per year ahead of COVID.
Misinformation has led to “a lot of fear” about the COVID vaccine, Sandoval said. But she noted that New Mexico has administered four and a half million COVID vaccines, part of the 150 million vaccines administered throughout the United States, “and they’ve been probably more closely than any other vaccine tracked for their safety record.”
She suggested that those who had concerns speak to their primary care provider with any concerns.
“We’ve given millions and millions of these vaccines,” she said. “We know they’re safe. We know that the side effects are very little.”