NM DOH: Plenty of New COVID-19 Booster Available

Omicron-centric booster required to be considered “up-to-date” with vaccinations

As of today, the state health department has distributed 7,324 doses of the new COVID-19 bivalent vaccine boosters—designed to target both the original form and the Omicron variant, including the current prevalent BA.5 subvariant. The state currently has an ample supply of 35,000 doses, Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during a monthly update.

In keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, people will be considered “up-to-date” with COVID-19 vaccination when they have received the new booster. The CDC offers an online interactive tool to check eligibility for the booster.

“I would just say I think we’re in a transition,” Scrase said regarding the new vaccine booster. “I’m excited about the booster. I’m excited and have my fingers crossed.”

COVID-19 continues to show diminishment in the state, as evidenced by the graph below, although Scrase noted that due to the preponderance of home-testing, the reported results represent about a quarter of the actual cases. Today, the state reported 259 new cases statewide, bringing the total number of cases so far to 615,405.

According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends for the seven-day period of Sept. 5-11, Santa Fe County’s case rate was 12.7, compared to 19.4 the previous week. The state recorded 1,657 cases statewide—based on reported cases—over the seven-day period, a 31% decrease from the prior week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” New Mexico has no red counties, but Santa Fe County slipped from “green” (good) to “yellow” (medium) and is now one of six yellow counties. The state map, which updates each Thursday for the prior seven-day period, uses a framework that combines case rates with hospital metrics. The website had not provided a Sept. 15 update as of press time. The community levels site has accompanying recommendations at the bottom of the page. The CDC also provides a quarantine and isolation calculator.

The state reported 121 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 8,509; Santa Fe County has had 348 total deaths so far. As of today, 81 people are hospitalized with COVID-19—the lowest number since mid-May—and six of them are on ventilators. Hospitalizations continue to plateau, Scrase said.

Aging and Long-Term Services Department Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez said with the lower COVID-19 numbers “residents in long term care facilities in the community are feeling safer and we’re all getting back to a normal.”

Hotrum-Lopez said her agency is actively working on “how we can get shots in arms in long term care facilities,” including nursing and assisted-living facilities, and coordinating with senior centers to do the same, including complying with new regulations that require continually educating and offering the vaccine to staff and residents.

The state has also “come a long way,” Scrase said in monitoring wastewater for COVID-19. A Sept. 13 report on wastewater monitoring in the state—currently 11 municipalities are participating—will be updated weekly on Mondays. Santa Fe is not among the cities monitoring wastewater for COVID-19. Last April, a city spokesman told SFR the city had conducted a pilot doing so in 2021, but “the Santa Fe sanitary sewer collection system does not lend itself to producing representative samples and quality data,” he wrote. “Testing in our facility inlet is representative of the entire City and County (Española to Edgewood), and therefore not geographically specific to the City.

Scrase said today he’s less “excited” about testing wastewater for COVID-19, but “the idea that we can test for polio and other other viral infections, influenza and other things to get, we hope, an early warning of impending outbreaks.”

Speaking of which, Deputy Health Secretary and Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Laura Parajón also provided updates on monkeypox, West Nile Virus and polio.

Thus far, New Mexico has had 33 monkeypox cases, she said, 22 of which were in Bernalillo County and four of which were in Santa Fe County. SFR filed a public request last month with DOH for a county breakdown of cases at that time, but the county breakdown was redacted in the health department’s response, as was information on ages, gender and ethnicity. Today, Parajón also did not share specific gender breakdowns, but acknowledged most of the cases have been among men, as has been the case nationally. SFR is in the process of requesting additional data from DOH regarding monkeypox cases in the state in order to report it to the public.

The state has distributed 1,749 first doses of the monkeypox vaccine and 179 second doses, she said. The viral disease, she noted, can result in “painful lesions or sores” but rarely requires hospitalization or results in death. There have been 22,774 cases in the US.

The department reported New Mexico’s first case of West Nile Virus on Sept. 12. As of today, there are three human and one animal case in four counties. West Nile is most commonly spread to people from infected mosquitos.

Last, but not least, while New Mexico has yet to see any polio cases, poliovirus is circulating in New York, which recently declared a state of emergency in response.

And New Mexico has seen, Parajón said, a drop in vaccination during the pandemic, as shown in the chart below.

“And so we’re encouraging everyone to get vaccinated,” Parajón said. “As you can see on our county map…for kids who are 6 years old and have gotten their full four doses, it varies throughout the state. You can see some of the counties in our state actually have 60% or lower, so that would put you at risk if you didn’t get vaccinated.” Adults who weren’t vaccinated for polio as children “can still actually get vaccinated as an adult,” she noted. “So it’s a good time to get vaccinated against polio.” Santa Fe County has a 76% polio vaccination rate.

Returning to COVID-19 to conclude the update, Scrase said “We have a lot of great tools, but we still need to protect vulnerable New Mexicans, protect ourselves and our families.”

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