Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

U.S.|Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Why New Mexico’s vaccination campaign is doing so well.

Jonathan WolfeAmelia Nierenberg


Credit…The New York Times

Despite the setback from Johnson & Johnson, there’s still some good news in the campaign to vaccinate Americans. Providers are administering nearly 3.4 million doses per day on average, and close to one in every four residents has now been fully vaccinated. Every state is administering shots at a solid pace, and there is one particularly bright spot that may hold lessons.

New Mexico — despite having one of the highest poverty rates in the country — has put in motion one of the most efficient rollouts, and is surging past states with far more resources in the race to reach herd immunity. More than 57 percent of the adult population there has received at least one shot, and nearly 38 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. Only New Hampshire has a higher vaccination rate.

Infectious disease experts say New Mexico’s success can be attributed to a centralized portal for vaccine appointments and a strong focus by elected officials on combating the virus.

Early in the crisis, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and former state health secretary, adopted significant social distancing measures despite fierce opposition.

Ms. Lujan Grisham also mobilized the New Mexico National Guard and Civil Air Patrol, which operate a large vaccine distribution center in Albuquerque and staff drive-through testing sites. The governor said that she had little choice but to move aggressively against the virus. Her state has a rapidly aging population, a shortage of hospital beds and sky-high numbers of residents with underlying medical conditions.

Big challenges remain, including the threat of new variants and disparities in vaccine acceptance in some communities. Hispanics and African-Americans in New Mexico remain less likely to get the vaccine than non-Hispanic whites. New Mexico also paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of six cases of rare blood clots, which could slow the rollout.

But the state’s hard work has yielded results. Since vaccines began rolling out in December, new virus cases have plunged from nearly 2,000 a day to fewer than 200. Deaths have declined from an average of more than 35 a day to fewer than five.

The news that six women aged 18 to 48 developed a rare blood clotting disorder after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has prompted new questions about whether vaccines affect women differently than men. Our colleague Christina Caron interviewed experts to learn what women should know before getting a vaccination.

Importantly, we still don’t know if the blood clots actually affect women more than men. (We also don’t know if the shot caused the clotting at all.)

In general, for all shots, we do know that women appear to experience or report more side effects than men. Women reported 79 percent of side effects, even though they had received only 61 percent of the vaccines, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. There might be a biological explanation: Women and girls can produce up to twice as many antibodies after receiving other routine shots.

Experts agree that pregnant and postpartum women can get vaccinated, especially because pregnant women who contract the virus are at an increased risk for more severe disease. On Tuesday, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots, instead of Johnson & Johnson, for pregnant and postpartum women.

Some women said they had changes in the flow or timing of their period after getting vaccinated, but this is purely anecdotal. The shots could also cause enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit that will show up as white blobs on mammograms. The swelling is normal, doctors said, but if you have a routine mammogram it might be a good idea to schedule it before your first vaccine dose or at least one month after your second vaccine dose.

  • U.S. public health officials, responding to the government’s pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, have warned that highlighting the clotting with a “pause” heightens vaccine hesitancy, helps conspiracy theorists, and could ultimately sicken — and even kill — more people than it saves.

  • South Africa paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, once again halting use of a Covid-19 vaccine it had bet on.

  • France will continue to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while Sweden said it would await the findings of the European Medical Agency, The Guardian reports.

  • The European Union will receive an extra 50 million doses this month of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

  • Researchers in Britain investigating the effects of using one coronavirus vaccine for a first dose and another for a second have expanded their trial.

I lost my active, young-at-heart 74-year-old father to Covid on April 26, 2020. The loss feels as fresh today as it did then. It’s been so hard to process and to find closure. I was unable to witness his deterioration during his 18-day hospital stay, and never got to say goodbye. I keep expecting him to walk in the door as if this was all a bad dream. As the anniversary of his death approaches, I am filled with dread. When will it be safe to have a funeral?

— Allison Sullivan, Dallas

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Jonathan Wolfe and Amelia Nierenberg