You’ve probably heard a lot about the new Covid-19 vaccines that are being slowly rolled out across the country (and the world). In New Mexico, our rollout process has begun, and people are getting vaccinated (as of January 5th, about 2% of New Mexicans have been vaccinated). The vaccine is administered in two doses, spaced 21 or 28 days apart, depending on which version of the vaccine you receive (Moderna-28 or Pfizer-21).
As healthcare workers, our pharmacists are in the first tier of patients that the vaccine is available to (just like doctors, nurses, and nursing home staff). I spoke with one of our pharmacists, Charles, about his experience receiving the first dose of the vaccine. We are sharing his interview here to answer some questions about this process that is so important and new to us all:
When did you get the vaccine?
Charles: Last week, on December 30th.
Why were you allowed to get the vaccine?
Charles: I had applied online with the department of health at https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org. The questionnaire asks your occupation, and I put healthcare worker. Then, the Department of Health sent me a text so I knew they had received my information. [As a pharmacist, Charles is part of the Tier 1a group of healthcare workers who work with patients. He administers our Covid-19 tests to individuals who are possibly positive with Covid-19).
What was the process like from there?
Charles: After filling out the first questionnaire, they sent me a link and had me fill out the remainder of the questions (8-ish pages online, about medical history). I filled that out. Then, it was first come first serve, and they sent me an appointment time for 3 hours later, for 1 PM! They didn’t give me much information.
The text just said to go to Expo New Mexico. I figured I would enter in the San Pedro gate (which was correct). I got there 45 minutes early, thinking it would be a drive-through process (like Covid testing has been). It was not a drive through, because they need to monitor patients after administering the vaccine. I arrived at Expo NM, and they had everyone park. At 1 PM they opened Tingley Coliseum and we waited in line to check paperwork (everyone wore a mask and was socially distanced). If you were properly in the system (from filling out the information online), they found you in their database and had you take a seat. Healthcare workers went around administering the vaccine, which was really painless.
Once you got the vaccine, you received a text message saying that your mandatory 15-minute observation period (30 if you have had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past or severe allergies) had begun. A nurse walks around to see how people are feeling.
While you wait the 15 minutes, they schedule your second appointment for the vaccine, and they text you the details immediately. For me, the whole process from walking in the door to getting back in my car was 25 minutes.
Why should other people get the vaccine?
Charles: Everybody needs to get the vaccine (when they can). It saves lives. In my opinion, one of the key ways to get our economy back on track is through this vaccine. You’re protecting your family, your neighbor’s family, our medical staff. Medical staff is overworked and exhausted. It’ll take time, but if you can get it done, get it done.
Are there any dangers to the vaccine? Why do they monitor you for 15-30 minutes after you receive it?
Charles: There have been some incidents of people having anaphylaxis in the news, but the state is doing things to record and monitor this (and ensure that these people receive immediate medical attention). There were 5 emergency vehicles outside Tingley in case they were needed, but there were no bad reactions while I was there, they are just prepared. Side effects can happen with any vaccine, even the flu shot.
Which version of the vaccine did you get?
Charles: I got the Pfizer version.
To register for the vaccine in the state of New Mexico, follow this link (https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org/) and fill out the information. From there, the process is simple:
Once your initial registration information has been processed, the NM Department of Health will text or email you a confirmation code and a link.
You will enter your code and date of birth at the link provided and fill out a more in-depth questionnaire that asks about your pre-existing conditions and employment.
Once the vaccine is available to you, you will receive another email or text with an appointment time and location.
The state of New Mexico is rolling out the vaccine in tiers, starting with tier 1a. Information on whether you are a tier 1a worker is available here.