A community member receives his coronavirus vaccine during the mass vaccination clinic on March 25.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

The New Mexico Department of Health announced this week that New Mexicans aged 75 years and older who are registered at vaccineNM.org will no longer need event codes to schedule vaccine appointments.

Instead, seniors will receive invitations to schedule appointments. At that point, they will log in to vaccineNM.org using their confirmation code and date of birth and schedule an appointment at a time and location that is convenient for them. No event code will be required, but they will still need to make an appointment to receive their vaccine.

“New Mexico has vaccinated the large majority of our seniors, and we have reached out to nearly all the rest,” DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a press release on Monday. “We expect this change to make it easier for all remaining seniors to get their shots.”

Within the state vaccine registration system – vaccineNM.org – the Department of Health is prioritizing invitations for Phase 1A, New Mexicans 75+, and New Mexicans 60+ with chronic health conditions. As of March 28, 70.1 percent of those residents 75 years and older have received at least a first dose, and 57 percent are fully vaccinated.

Aging and Long Term Services Cabinet Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez attributed the impressive vaccination rates to her department’s collaboration with DOH and Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham.

“Additionally, our Aging Network and the Aging and Disability Resource Center have played integral roles in getting our seniors, with and without access to technology, registered and scheduled for their vaccine,” Hotrum-Lopez said. “We’re pleased to see that so many of our seniors have chosen to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. We continue to work alongside DOH to expand opportunities for our senior population to get vaccinated.”

In addition to vaccineNM.org, DOH and ALTSD partnerships are providing a range of registration and vaccination supports for seniors and other New Mexicans, including:

Senior center vaccination events: typically one in each of the four quadrants of the state, each week. A minimum of 5,000 doses per week is distributed through these events. To date, more than 15,000 people have been vaccinated through these clinics.

Special efforts are being made to reach seniors who are homebound, through partnerships between DOH and local emergency management services and other service providers as well as pilot programs with ALTSD.

Two call centers devoted to registering, problem-solving, and scheduling for seniors, the disabled community, and other New Mexicans who need support. New Mexicans can call 855-600-3453, press option 0 for vaccine questions, and then option 4 for tech support. Those who require additional accommodations, such as a ride to a vaccine event or a wheelchair upon arrival, will receive a call back from the Aging and Disability Resource Center or the UNM Office of Community Health. In addition, family members or other supportive New Mexicans can provide assistance with registration.

Efforts are underway to reach out to seniors through the state’s managed care organizations. In partnership with state agencies, MCOs will contact Medicaid-eligible and Medicare-eligible patients and work to schedule them at vaccine clinics at their convenience.

In the meantime, DOH officials encourage all state residents 16 years and older to register for the vaccine at vaccineNM.org.