New Mexico Governor: No booster? Then you're unvaccinated

AP Photo/Morgan Lee

This is a question that I raised back during the summer and we have yet to see any sort of “official” answer from the federal government. What does it mean to be “fully vaccinated” at this stage of the pandemic? If you live in New Mexico it means having three shots, not two, at least if you received the Pfizer or Moderna jabs. That’s the opinion of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, anyway. During her pandemic briefing yesterday, she informed the state’s residents that if they received their vaccinations more than six months ago, they are no longer truly “fully vaccinated” and they need to go get a booster. While this hasn’t been officially encoded into any existing state mandates yet, Grisham is going further than either the White House or the FDA has gone thus far in terms of forcing boosters on the public. So what will this mean for New Mexico residents going forward? (Washington Times)

Going a step beyond federal guidance, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that she believes being fully vaccinated means three shots and she pushed for all adults in her state who are eligible to get their boosters.

She made the comments during a virtual pandemic briefing, citing the increasing number of COVID-19 infections among residents who received their vaccinations more than six months ago.

Some cities and states already allow all adults to get boosters of Pfizer’s vaccine, but it is not yet official U.S. policy. In the last week, California, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia and Colorado expanded the shots to all adults. New York City made a similar move.

If the Governor goes forward with turning this definition into an executive order, there will be complications and confusion as to how everyone in her state is supposed to proceed. It’s the sort of mandate that won’t impact everyone equally at the same time, hence the confusion.

Specifically, if you were among the first to sign up for a shot when they first became available and more than six months have gone by since then, you are now basically “unvaccinated” and part of the unwashed masses again. But if you waited until the last minute and were recently vaccinated in an effort to avoid losing your job, you’re going to have until the middle of May of 2022 to debate whether or not you’re willing to do it again. That means that anyone checking vaccine passports at your place of employment or your favorite local restaurant now has an even tougher time acting as a state enforcement official. Your CDC card alone won’t suffice unless the date of the last shot falls inside of the designated window.

Muddying the waters further is the fact that the term “fully vaccinated” shows up in multiple places in New Mexico. Under existing orders, employees at hospitals and state agencies, along with other facilities such as Los Alamos National Laboratories are required to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. So will everyone with an “expired” CDC card now be facing termination yet again if they’ve become unsure about how quickly they want to rush out for a booster?

The current federal guidelines make the Governor’s pending orders even more of a mess. The FDA is recommending that people over 65 or with underlying conditions get the booster shot after six months, but that’s only for Moderna and Pfizer shots. If you had the Johnson & Johnson jab you’re supposed to get it after two months. That’s one more headache for the vaccine passport inspectors to tackle. And those under 65 (who make up the lion’s share of the workforce) aren’t even recommended to get it yet, but New Mexico may force them to anyway.

There doesn’t seem to be any question about Lujan Grisham making this policy official despite all of the questions being raised. In her announcement, she referenced “incentives – and potentially mandates – for making sure that people are fully vaccinated, which means three vaccines.” Further, a new public health order covering the subject of boosters is in the works, to be released “in the coming weeks.”

Good luck, New Mexico. Your authoritarian governor is clearly preparing to turn up the heat and issue more orders regarding your personal healthcare decisions. And it won’t even matter if the orders make any sense or can be reasonably applied to everyone equally. It’s 2021 and your government is going to force you to comply or turn you into a leper.

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