Concerned citizen questions NM’s vaccination rollout

Paul Dulin, Concerned citizen
3247 Executive Hills Rd.
Las Cruces, NM 88011
Cell: 575 343-2324 (Las Cruces number)

As I personally worked on the H1N1 Pandemic response in 2009 and managed numerous vaccination campaigns for both seniors and children as the State’s former Director of the Office of Border Health, I am bemused at the lack of strategic actions by the New Mexico Department of Health regarding the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The priorities of vaccination should not only be based on just the age of a person and whether they have a pre-existing condition that increases their risk to COVID-19 (including variants as may be deemed a criterion), but also on geography. This has been a big problem with the rollout of vaccines in New Mexico. While New Mexico (and DOH) was accepting praise for their efforts, border counties (including especially Doña Ana County and Las Cruces, Otero, Luna and Hidalgo) were given a lower priority while vaccine distribution and vaccination rates were higher in the northern counties within the State—even as these had less infections.  

Our region is close to the border with El Paso and ports-of-entry from Mexico (including the influence of Juarez to El Paso). This puts us at a disadvantage when considering risks of spreading the virus. El Paso was considered “ground zero” and the number one hotspot for the disease in the U.S. in late 2020 and the beginning of 2021. A total of approximately 100,000 people crosses the border from Juarez to El Paso and vice-versa on a daily basis. Juarez has not done much testing for COVID-19 (primarily when folks arrive at the hospitals with symptoms) and has yet to roll out the vaccines in that city and the nation of Mexico as a whole. El Paso has received the brunt of infections from Juarez and these crossings of infected people are a conduit for reinfection on the U.S. side of the border (diseases respect no borders). 

And much of that infection is transferred to border communities (especially Doña Ana County because of the connection with El Paso via Interstate 10), increasing the numbers of those people infected by COVID-19. Yet, this phenomenon seems to have been ignored by those responsible for initial vaccine rollout. 

Question: Is geography and the location of the US-Mexico ports-of-entry and the border counties still being ignored? When there is a surge (now waiting for the fourth surge, many with new variants), will this phenomenon again be ignored?