Expanded Vaccine Eligibility Begins In New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — All New Mexicans age 16 or older who wish to be vaccinated against the coronavirus now have a chance to receive their shots, as Monday marked the start of expanded eligibility under the state Department of Health’s distribution plan.

The timeline for getting more shots out to the general public was sped up under a directive by the Biden administration to make all adults in the U.S. eligible by May 1. State officials also said they opened up eligibility because providers in some parts of the state were no longer able to find people to fill appointments.

Still, state health officials said those who were part of the earlier phases will be prioritized. That includes health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and older New Mexicans with health conditions that put them at greater risk.

More than 30% of New Mexico's eligible population has been fully vaccinated. State data also shows that about 48% of residents have received their first shot.

Researchers at University of New Mexico Health Sciences announced Friday they plan to participate in a national clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine in children.

Walter Dehority, an infectious disease specialist at the pediatrics department at UNM, said the project is awaiting final regulatory approval before launching. If approved, the trial would involve 6,750 children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years and participants would be followed for a year after the second vaccination.

Although most children appear to suffer few or no symptoms when infected with the coronavirus, Dehority contends there are still reasons to get them vaccinated. He said having children vaccinated would boost heard immunity among the overall population.

New Mexico health officials didn't release any COVID-19 numbers during the Easter weekend. On Monday, they announced there were 199 new cases and two deaths Saturday and 170 additional cases on Sunday with 96 cases and no deaths Monday.

The updated numbers pushed the state's totals to 192,595 coronavirus cases and 3,953 known deaths since the pandemic began.