New Mexico says it is among the top states for getting COVID-19 vaccines into people's arms, but until more vaccine becomes available there are still more arms waiting than there are shots to give. Unmet demand has people looking for ways to get vaccinated sooner – like driving to other states or hanging around pharmacies at the end of the day. However, the New Mexico Department of Health published an order Monday creating penalties for healthcare providers who give shots out of turn and for people who are untruthful on their vaccine registrations.
The new public health order instructs COVID-19 vaccine providers to follow published distribution phases or face a fine up to $5,000 per violation. That means giving shots to people who don't qualify for Phase 1A, are at least 75-years-old, or could have a high-risk of complications from COVID-19 could be costly.
There are exceptions for those doses of vaccine that would be wasted. They can be given to the next people down the list, but only out of phase if no one who’s eligible is available.
Health Secretary Tracie Collins wrote to vaccine providers, asking them to let her department know if they need more eligible people called in to use up vaccine doses.
The new DOH order also made being untruthful on the state vaccination registration a punishable offense that could incur a $5,000 fine.
DOH spokesperson Matt Bieber told KUNM that people who left New Mexico to get a first shot elsewhere can get their second vaccine dose at home as long as they qualify in the current phase. Otherwise, they may have to travel again to get the full protection of a second shot.
In the meantime, the state is working to increase the vaccine supply and to more efficiently distribute shots to hard-to-reach communities.