Loretta Mendoza gives Brittney Doseo her second dose of the COVID vaccine Tuesday. Victor Trieu, the driver, passed through the Sandoval County vaccination site near Idalia Road. Amy Byres photo.

Local emergency officials have unanswered questions about the state’s vague vaccination plan, said Sandoval County Emergency Manager Seth Muller.

Thursday night, Muller updated Sandoval County Commissioners on COVID-19 vaccine operations.

“The state never gave emergency management a copy of their plan. We got a copy of their Vaccine Operations Manual from a third party,” he said.

The manual written in early December provides guidelines to the state and outlines potential points of dispensing, locations that are not all being used. If there is an updated plan for vaccine distribution, Muller has not seen it and does not know of any local emergency managers who have.

He gets answers when he contacts the New Mexico Department of Health.

“In my opinion, the communications issues are between DOH and the public,” Muller said. “They need to do better at stopping media from just running with information and they need to better explain to the public how their system is pulling people.”

Local emergency management does not know how the system works because they didn’t create it, he said.

“It is a little heartbreaking when we get emails, phone calls (from) people that say we are not doing our job, we don’t care about the community; they don’t see the bigger picture. We do share the information that we get, when we get it, and we are doing everything we can. And I know that they are frustrated, but calling or harassing us and belittling us in our position does not help the process,” he said.

Workers at the Sandoval County COVID vaccination site prepare shots while a Valentine’s Day decoration still hangs on a pole. Amy Byres photo.

The Observer asked the DOH about how the algorithm selects people for vaccination but did not hear back by press time.

During the week of Feb. 7, Sandoval County’s Emergency Operations Center received 510 doses it stretched out to 573 vaccinations, Muller said.

Vendors in the county receive a total of 6 percent of doses provided to the state. New Mexico receives about 60,000 doses a week from the federal government, according to an Albuquerque Journal report.

“We reached out to the state to see what was allocated for the county as a whole, but the DOH Allocation Team is very tight-lipped about the numbers and what goes where,” Muller said.

The county has distributed 32,595 doses, about 28 percent of the county’s population 16 years or older. The DOH told the county it will be a few more months before the next phase.

As of Feb. 18, about 1,600 registered people are classified under Phase 1A in Sandoval County. About 3,500 people registered under Phase 1B are over 75, and 22,600 people registered in Phase 1B are between 16 and 74 with an underlying condition in the county.

Almost 32,700 county residents are registered for current vaccination efforts, Muller said.

Some vaccination entities get shots from the federal government or Moderna instead of the DOH, so the county can’t track them, and not all partners enter their vaccine numbers in the state tracking system.

“We do know Johnson & Johnson will be coming in a few weeks, but we are being told that will primarily be started in remote and rural parts of the state, along with shelters and the indigent population, since it is a single-dose regimen. The populated areas of the state will continue with what is going on currently,” he said.

To learn more, visit https://www.sandovalcountynm.gov/covid-19-information/.

Staff writer at Rio Rancho Observer