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In business there are times when you need to make a deal. Say, Cash For Clunkers or Buy One Get One Free, Free Crazy Bread or even Three Months Utilities Paid! As people around the country seek out the COVID vaccine in hopes of getting back to everyday life, advertising the COVID-19 vaccine is a new marketing ploy. Fairwinds of Rio Rancho ran an advertisement in the Jan. 31 edition of the Albuquerque Journal with a banner heading stating, “It’s not too late to be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The ad shows two worried older adults clutching each other, across the table from what appears to be a medical professional. “Call today to learn how you can have priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine.” Your first question may be, “Is this legal?” And yes, it is. The State of New Mexico is currently in “Phase 1A Priority,” which prioritizes the following for vaccines: hospital personnel, residents and workers of long-term care facilities, congregate setting workers, home-based healthcare workers and persons providing direct medical services. 

Retirement communities are not explicitly mentioned in the detailed list but apply as “long-term care facilities.” Or at least that is what the DOH says. Upon calling the vaccine hotline, George, a representative, said that, “Well, it looks like it fits in the congregate setting.” This seems to be the case for many facilities like Fairwinds. The dividing line is whether a senior “independent and assisted living” community such as Fairwinds is the same as a facility that provides rehabilitative, restorative and/or ongoing skilled nursing care to patients or residents in need of assistance with daily living activities. 

A retirement home may not meet these requirements but may slip in under the “congregate setting” rule. “Sounds like good ol’ capitalism,” a New Mexico Department of Health rep confided with The Paper. over the phone. The rent at Fairwinds varies but can start around $2,000 a month and can increase dramatically. Is the vaccine worth a two-grand investment? Maybe, when you consider how many people in the state have signed up to receive a vaccine but have gotten the reply from DOH that they do not meet the current criteria.

Susan Tiszkowski, a marketing executive at Fairwinds, says the advertisement is a partnership with CVS pharmacy. CVS does state that it is working alongside state and municipal governments to help roll out the vaccination. The website has a portal to check if your state is currently one of those. New Mexico currently is not one of their states listed as a CVS partner, although the state announced this partnership as far back as December. Which begs the question if these vaccines that CVS is giving out are part of the larger set of doses the state has been allocated. Or are these shots bought and paid for by CVS?

Mind you; there are millions of people in dire need of this vaccine. Currently, the state’s DOH has over half a million people registered to get the vaccine. If private companies like CVS and Walgreens helped administer shots to everyday citizens, that would certainly help with backlog. But for now, you still register on the state portal and await your turn. For those seniors on the cusp of age or health requirements, this can be frustrating. It lends itself to the mentality that, “Those with money, make the rules.” If you have the money and need a shot, Fairwinds has a space for you. It may be a high price to pay, but what figure do you put on your health during a global pandemic?

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