New Mexico Makes Vaccine Appointments Easier For Seniors

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is making it easier for senior citizens to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of Health announced Thursday that people 60 and up can schedule a vaccine appointment without first being offered one by health officials.

Since the vaccine rollout, seniors have had priority for the shots. But the system to set appointments was frustrating for them and at some times impossible for rural residents.

The appointments are offered by text or email on a first-come, first-served basis. They can close within hours of being sent. The locations where shots are offered also could be far from where people live, requiring as much as a four-hour roundtrip drive.

Under the new policy, New Mexicans 60 and up can register for an appointment online whenever they want. Vaccination sites in their area may be booked, but they don’t have to wait for an invite and can check availability at their convenience.

The move effectively gives them first pick at appointments, and ending the need for them to have 24/7 access to text messages and emails. It follows a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found New Mexico lagged behind other states in distributing vaccines to highly vulnerable populations as well as a state health department announcement in February for a “ vaccine equity plan.”

All New Mexico residents 16 and up are now eligible for the vaccine, but appointments are limited.

The health department encourages people to sign up for the vaccine online but offers tech help by calling 1-855-600-3453, pressing “0” for vaccine questions and then “4” for tech support. That phone line is answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.