Why I had to drive 250 miles to get my COVID shot

It's a long and boring 247-mile drive from Albuquerque to Muleshoe, Texas.  You drive east on I-40 to Santa Rosa, N.M. and then head south on U.S. 84.  The trip "highlight" is the sign directing you to Billy the Kid's grave outside Fort Sumner, N.M.  At this time of year, the rest of the drive is mostly wind, sand, and sagebrush.

I drove to the metropolis of Muleshoe because it gave me something that I couldn't get in New Mexico: a Wuhan virus vaccine shot.  I'm over 65 but under 75 and have no major underlying health issues.  The problem for me is that in N.M., if a senior has no major underlying health issues, he is not eligible for the Wuhan virus vaccine unless he is at least 75 years old — the highest age for any state in the country.  Hawaii is the only other state with a 75 cutoff.  In Texas, the age for seniors to qualify is a much lower and more reasonable 65.

In looking at the following chart, it is obvious that the few states who have chosen to have cutoff ages for the vaccine higher than 65 are outliers.

Minimum age for seniors not having major health issues to qualify for vaccine:

AL

65

AK

65

AZ

55

AR

65

CA

65

CO

65

CN

55

DC

65

DE

65

FL

65

GA

65

HI

75

ID

65

IL

65

IN

60

IA

65

KS

65

KY

70

LA

65

ME

60 (as of 3/3)

MD

65

MA

65

MI

65

MN

65

MS

65

MO

65

MT

70

NE

65

NH

65

NJ

65

NM

75

NY

65

NC

65

ND

65

NV

65 or 70 depending on county of residence

OH

65

OK

65

OR

65

PA

65

RI

65

SC

65

SD

65

TN

70

TX

65

UT

65

VT

65

VA

65

WA

65

WV

65

WI

65

WY

65

 

Source.

 

It is instructive to compare how Texas and New Mexico have each handled COVID-19 vaccine distributions.  If I could use one word to describe how Texas has done, it would be transparent.

Texas has been notifying the public on a weekly basis how much of each vaccine is being shipped out and where it is going with a vaccine allocation list.  It has provided a list of vaccine hub providers for most counties in the state.  Perhaps best of all, it publishes a vaccine availability map that shows vaccine type and availability throughout the state.  This is how I found out about the pharmacy in Muleshoe where I could get my shot.  I called up, advised the pharmacy that I was an out-of-state resident, and scheduled an appointment.  It appears that a lot of power has been given to local resources throughout the state regarding vaccine distribution.

In contrast, there is New Mexico.  Ouch.  If Texas vaccine distribution is an example of a partnership among state government, local government, and the private sector, New Mexico is an example of a command-and-control, from-the-top, government-imposed system.

In New Mexico, if you are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine, you register and wait.  You wait to receive a call or text or email from the health department stating when and where you can get your vaccine. We have no vaccine availability map like what Texas has.  We can't call anyone and ask for an appointment.  All we can do is check the health department website to make certain that our application has been received and that we are on a wait list.

Why New Mexico has this command-and-control structure with no local input is probably mostly historical.  No state in the country has had single-party Democrat rule at the state level longer than New Mexico — since 1931.  It has an enormous state government for its small population size that instinctively acts without much thought of working with the private sector.  There is also the Hunger Games aspect of The Capitol, supposedly knowing what is best for the provinces and demanding that the provinces do what they are told, not ask questions, and just shut up.

For seniors living in states with vaccine age limits higher than 65, you may want to investigate trying to get vaccinated in a neighboring state (sorry, Hawaii).  You should ask yourself the following question: do I want to wait until my state eventually gets around to vaccinating me, realizing that I am at high risk until then?  Or do I want to travel to a neighboring state, get vaccinated now, immediately reduce my risk of contracting COVID-19, and also immediately increase my chances of survival?  When stated this way, I think the choice is pretty clear.

Thanks again to the State of Texas and the K&K Pharmacy of Muleshoe, Texas for giving me my first COVID-19 shot.  Had I not gotten a shot, I would still be Waiting for Godot here in New Mexico.

Image via Needpix.