It almost feels like a book of The Hunger Games; people around the country are desperately searching for a way to get the COVID-19 vaccine, especially if they have underlying conditions, or they've been registered for a long period of time with no call for an appointment. Vaccine Hunter Groups have popped up online and on social media in 32 states. Nationally, New Mexico seems to be doing pretty well per capita, with 20 percent of the population vaccinated. Still, the state Department of Health says there's a supply vs. demand imbalance, and the state relies on the federal government to give them their weekly supply.
After hearing about companies encouraging their employees to go out of state for the vaccine, we started looking closer at the issue and found that more and more people are traveling to Texas to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, rather than wait in line in New Mexico. Is this legal? Yes. Is it ethical? That's up to the individual and the employer. The state says it has a plan to make the vaccine distribution system more equitable for individuals who are older than 65, including allowing for more time to have seniors register for an appointment. For some, they aren't willing to wait. For those with an underlying condition, waiting could be a matter of life and death.
From a general public health standpoint, we know that the more shots-in-arms the better—thus creating herd immunity. Are we creating a kind of COVID medical tourism? Both New Mexico and Texas do not require verification of residency to receive the vaccine. Neither state publicly tracks how many vaccines are given to out-of-state residents either. In the case of the COVID vaccine, it's a product sought after around the country, reinforced by the patchwork of inconsistent state policies, appointment scheduling systems and prioritized populations.
If you're interested in our continuing coverage of "Hunting for the Vaccine," head to our website abq.news where we profile employers who are encouraging their employees to travel for the vaccine.
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