How New Mexico Became the State With the Highest Rate of Full Vaccinations - The New York Times
New Mexico, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S., is a vaccination pacesetter thanks to decisive political decisions, homegrown technology and cooperation.More than 57 percent of New Mexico’s adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. And nearly 38 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, a higher rate than in any other state.
ALBUQUERQUE — Despite having one of the highest poverty rates in the country, New Mexico is surging past states with far more resources in the race to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.After New Mexico put into motion one of the most efficient vaccine rollouts in the United States, more than 57 percent of its adult population has now received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Hampshire is the only state with a higher vaccination rate. Nearly 38 percent of New Mexico adults are fully vaccinated, more than any other state.
The feat is providing some relief in a state where Hispanic and Native American residents — groups that have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus — together account for 60 percent of the population. Going into the pandemic with a dearth of financial resources compared with richer states, and vulnerabilities like having fewer hospital beds per capita than nearly every other state, the authorities in New Mexico saw the vaccine as their most powerful weapon to stave off an even more harrowing crisis.
Infectious-disease experts attribute New Mexico’s vaccine success to a combination of homegrown technological expertise, cooperation between state and local agencies and a focus by elected officials on combating the virus.Since vaccines began rolling out in December, new cases of the coronavirus in New Mexico have plunged to fewer than 200 a day from nearly 2,000. Deaths have declined to fewer than five a day from an average of more than 35. In the state’s nursing homes and assisted-care facilities, the average number of deaths each day has fallen from 10 to fewer than one.“New Mexico’s foundational health disparities compel us to think differently than some other states with regard to pandemic response,” Ms. Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “I fully believe New Mexico can be the first state to reach herd immunity and be the first to begin operating in the new post-pandemic ‘normal’ the right way, the safe way.”
Before vaccines began getting administered last year, Ms. Lujan Grisham mobilized the New Mexico National Guard and Civil Air Patrol, whose pandemic-related missions include operating a large vaccine distribution center in Albuquerque and staffing drive-through testing sites. From the start, the authorities have made both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available in roughly equal proportions across the state, accounting for a large majority of doses administered so far.
In devising its vaccine distribution plan many months ago, the health department also turned to Real Time Solutions, a small software company in Albuquerque. While other states adopted piecemeal registration approaches, resulting in chaotic rollouts, Real Time set up a centralized vaccine portal for all residents to sign up for shots.Big challenges persist during a pandemic, including the threat of new variants and disparities in vaccine acceptance in some communities. According to the health department, Hispanics and African-Americans in New Mexico remain less likely to get the vaccine than Anglos, as non-Hispanic whites are known in the state. (...)But Native Americans in New Mexico, who have endured some of the most severe rural outbreaks during the pandemic, are getting the vaccine at close to the same rate as Anglos in the state. In some instances, tribal nations have done such a thorough job of vaccinating their own citizens that they have begun administering doses to people from neighboring communities, providing another boost to New Mexico’s overall vaccination rate.Health experts say somewhere between 70 to 90 percent of people in a society need to be vaccinated to arrive at herd immunity, a situation in which most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, providing indirect protection to those who are not immune. With less than 40 percent of its residents fully vaccinated, New Mexico still has a long road ahead to reach that point.