By Lance Chilton
Two weeks after seeing a wonderful New Mexico Shakespeare Festival production of Hamlet, during which the star, Sheridan K. Johnson, declaims “To be or not to be…”, I got my third COVID shot, my booster. So I have answered the question in the title of this piece for myself, anyway.
Our Department of Health, ably led by Governor Luján Grisham and Acting Secretary David Scrase, has determined that the state will proceed with boosters according to the guidelines set forth by Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, acknowledging that there are differences of opinions among experts as to need.
Starting immediately, people in these priority categories can get booster vaccines if their first shots were Pfizer:
- Those over 65
- Those 18 to 64 with different types of underlying medical conditions
- Those over 18 in a long-term care facility
- Those in high-risk professions, such as health care, police work, grocery clerking, or teaching
All of these categories are defined and discussed on the CDC’s website, at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html.
DOH has divided people authorized to get boosters into “should” and “may” groups, with those over 65 and those between 50-64 with medical underlying conditions listed as “should” and prioritized for appointments in the next 2 weeks. Note that those who received Johnson and Johnson or Moderna vaccines initially are not eligible for boosters yet, although they will probably become able to get boosters in the next few weeks or months.
The magnitude of the task is large, undoubtedly causing hard-working DOH folks to remember February, when the shots first became available and there was a rush to get them. Here are the groups likely to need shots, first, second or third, now and in the next month or two:
- All those not yet immunized, over 12 years of age (New Mexico has currently fully immunized 70% of those over 18, and 53.3% of teenagers 12 to 17)
- Boosters for the groups listed above
- Boosters for recipients of Moderna and J&J vaccines, especially in the high-risk groups I’ve listed
- Children 5 to 12, for whom at least the Pfizer vaccine is likely to be approved soon
- All those not yet immunized!
I repeat “all those not yet immunized,” because, unfortunately, vaccine acceptance has been lower in red-leaning states and counties. Getting those folks their shots is most likely to make a big difference in transmission of disease.
On an individual basis, I got the booster to help add extra protection for myself and especially those in my family more at risk of breakthrough COVID than I am. I put aside concern that my getting a third dose of vaccine deprives a person in Africa or South America or elsewhere. The World Health Organization would prefer me to have turned it down; like me, you’ll have to make up your mind.
If you are one of the 1,000,000 or so New Mexicans already or soon to be eligible for a dose of vaccine, go to https://goodtimes.vaccinenm.org/stay-ahead-nm/ to schedule it. You can also call 1-855-600-3453 for help scheduling, but it’s likely you will have to be on hold for a long time.