By Barbara Ramirez / NM News Port
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month approved a new round of COVID-19 vaccines. The reformulated vaccine by Pfizer and Monderna is being distributed to pharmacies nationwide and around New Mexico.
State health officials say there had been a slight delay in New Mexico’s rollout, but now local pharmacies are starting to receive the vaccine, and New Mexicans can begin scheduling appointments.
The latest vaccine formula is designed to target a new variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That variant, SARS-CoV-2 Omicron XBB.1.5, was first detected in New York City in October last year. Experts are monitoring other subvariants, including a new Omicron strain called EG.5, nicknamed “Eris.” According to Yale Medicine, “Eris” is currently the dominant strain in the U.S.
“We hope the new vaccine will help with all current variants,” said David Barre, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Department of Health. “It won’t prevent transmission, but it helps decrease chances of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.”
Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have risen by almost 8% in the country, with more than 20-thousand admissions from Sept. 3 to Sept. 9, according to the most recent data provided by the CDC. In New Mexico, hospitalizations rose by 37% during two weeks in late August.
David Juarros is a pharmacist at Smith’s Pharmacy on Academy and Wyoming in Albuquerque. He said the public should heed the latest public health information.
“Vaccines are important to keep the population healthy,” Juarros said. “When there are people that don’t want to get vaccinated or don’t trust it, it is difficult to keep the disease down.”
Juarros said the coming winter season will again bring multiple health threats – not just the coronavirus, but also influenza and RSV, a respiratory virus. He said vaccines can help prevent all of these.
“It is a good time to get the flu vaccine. It takes about 7 to 10 days to build up immunity after receiving the vaccine, and after the 10 days, you get about 3 to 4 months of immunity”.
The Government is Helping Cover Vaccine Costs
The federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 ended on May 11, 2023. It had allowed U.S. citizens to get the COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots at no cost. Since then, insurance companies were primarily responsible for covering Americans’ immunizations.
On Sept. 14, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a Bridge Access Program to safeguard the COVID-19 Vaccination for uninsured and underinsured adults.
Monica Martinez Vigil, Pharmacy Manager at the Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) at the University of New Mexico, said young people are encouraged to get the vaccines, too.
“Just like the CDC and FDA want people to get the flu vaccine, they are recommending people to get the new COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after their last COVID shot.”
The SHAC will be administering vaccines to students. Regarding the cost of the vaccine, Martinez Vigil said that most insurance companies will be paying for it.
Students interested in getting vaccinated can visit shac.unm.edu or call the pharmacy at (505) 277-6306.
The New Mexico Department of Health is directing people to VaccineNM.org for more information about vaccine availability.