EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — With a long waitlist in El Paso for the COVID-19 vaccine, people are traveling to Alamogordo, N.M., and Midland, Texas, to get the vaccine.
Midland is about a four-hour drive from El Paso, but Borderland resident Blaine McNutt made the drive this week in order to get his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
“I signed up in El Paso maybe a month, month and a half ago, and then I just saw somebody posted on Nextdoor that Midland was accepting construction workers from all over the state,” said McNutt. “So I signed up there about two weeks ago and they called me over the weekend and said, ‘Can you come Monday? So 6 a.m. on Monday, I drove to Midland.”
McNutt told KTSM 9 News that the drive was long, but the whole process of getting vaccinated only took him about five minutes. He added that if you need to get the vaccine right away, he thinks traveling out of town is a good option.
He did mention that he will have to drive back to Midland for his second dose.
“At the time, it seemed like a good idea because I’m outside all day with the no-mask mandate, so I was just trying to stay safe,” said McNutt. “Unless you really want to get it quicker, I’d probably just stay down here.”
A spokesperson for Midland Memorial Hospital said they have seen residents from El Paso traveling to get vaccinated at their mass vaccination site.
“This has not caused any issues in our process because they are securing appointments prior to arrival,” said Tasa Richardson, spokesperson for Midland Memorial Hospital. “Our goal is to get vaccinations in arms for those that meet criteria.”
Taylor Hines, another El Pasoan, decided to travel to Alamogordo, which is about an hour and 45-minute drive from El Paso, to get vaccinated. Hines said he called one morning and was able to get an appointment the next day.
“I specified and reiterated multiple times, ‘I’m coming from El Paso — is that okay?’ and they were like, ‘yes, of course.’ I told them the field that I’m in and they said, ‘OK, you’re in the group, you qualify,'” said Hines. “I really specified because I wanted to make sure I was doing things the right way and wasn’t jeopardizing anything for anyone else.”
However, the CEO of Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, told KTSM 9 News on Friday that they were no longer going to register people from other states.
“As of noon yesterday, March 11, we are no longer accepting residents out of the state of New Mexico for COVID vaccines at our location,” said Jim Heckert, CEO of Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center.
KTSM 9 News asked the City of El Paso if people traveling out of town would cause issues with keeping track of who in El Paso has been vaccinated.
Angela Mora, director of the El Paso Public Health Department, explained that there is a national system that keeps track of who has been vaccinated for COVID-19, adding that the information can be shared from city to city.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a large number of individuals going out of state or out of town to receive the vaccine,” said Mora. “I don’t think that’s going to affect our accountability locally, but in any event, we can keep track of that as well.”