Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

Parents in New Mexico can now collectively breathe a sigh of relief. After the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine was administered to frontline health workers and those with underlying conditions, the next most important group-as most parents would agree-to be vaccinated is New Mexico educators. Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution plan began Dec. 8, includes teachers, school-based cafeteria, administration and janitorial staff. With this new phase, children might soon be able to return to in-person learning, causing many of us parents to jump for joy.

“This is welcome news and a critical step in getting back to the educational gold standard, which is in-person learning,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “Prioritizing educators early in the vaccine distribution process shows New Mexico’s continuing commitment to the health and safety of these vital frontline workers in whose hands we entrust the future of our children.” 

Criteria for the phases of vaccine distribution is set by the New Mexico Department of Health, which began in late December.  

Phase 1B, adds these groups; New Mexicans 75 years and older; those 16 and older with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk from COVID-19, and frontline essential workers who cannot work remotely. The latter group includes early education and K-12 educators. 

To manage distribution as more vaccines become available, the health department has established a website where New Mexicans can register for the vaccine: 

https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org. Almost 250,000 New Mexicans have already used the website to create a profile with personal health data. Those who register will be notified when they become eligible and shots are available in their area. 

If the vaccine distribution goes according to plan in these first phases, the Department of Health hopes to start Phase 1C which would include New Mexicans over 60 years-old and workers who are not able to work remotely. Earlier this week, the Department of Health set up a hotline 1-855-600-3453 to answer questions and concerns about registering for the vaccine on their site cvvaccine.nmhealth.org. Registrants can set up comprehensive health profiles, and will be notified when they are able to receive the vaccine. 

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Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.