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New Mexico Republicans Support Those Opposed To Required Vaccinations For Healthcare Workers

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NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGIES AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES
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 Commentary: The fallout from Lujan Grisham’s vaccine mandate continues. Today Chaves County elected officials rallied with healthcare workers on the steps of the courthouse on Main Street to push back against the Governor’s blanket mandate of vaccinations for healthcare workers. New Mexico historically has struggled with staffing in rural hospitals and the decision by the administration to exclude weekly testing, in lieu of mandatory vaccinations, has forced many healthcare facilities to deal with the potential of mass layoffs and resignations.

Chaves County legislators signed a letter after the rally that strongly encourages Lujan Grisham to reconsider her mandate and consider how health worker shortages will affect rural communities. The group of lawmakers understand that a substantial number of healthcare professionals and staff remain, and intend to remain, unvaccinated. The letter asks the Governor to modify the current Public Health Order to better support medical and corrections facilities that might find it difficult to maintain staff under the current vaccine mandate. The letter was signed by State Representatives Candy Ezzell (R-Roswell), Greg Nibert (R-Roswell), Rachel Black (R-Alamogordo), Jim Townsend (R-Artesia), State Senators Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell), Stuart Ingle (R-Portales), and David Gallegos (R-Eunice).

The rally in Roswell hosted three community healthcare workers who told their stories about how the vaccine mandate affected them and what they see in the future.

Carlsbad nurse Chrissy Licht, who is already vaccinated, spoke at the press conference “on behalf of all of our nurses that have not been vaccinated, that are refusing to be vaccinated.” Nurse Licht pointed out what a struggle it is outside of COVID to staff rural hospitals and shared her concern about how further shortages, due to a vaccine mandate, will further cripple rural healthcare systems.

Donald Wenner III, M.D., a private practice doctor in Chaves County also spoke regarding his concerns about staffing rural hospitals. Dr. Wenner pointed out that hearing in the media that hospital beds are full is only part of the story, he contends that the number of beds is directly related to staff and bed limitations is due to extremely thin staffing. He hears people saying there are nurses and medical staff “ready and willing to replace” unvaccinated staff, but questions “where are they now? We need them now.” Dr. Wenner stated he is not anti-vaccine, he is pro-patient care and is concerned about what this cut and dry mandate will do in terms of patient care at hospitals or facilities that have historically struggled with staffing.

Renee Brock, mother of a recent nurse graduate, told a story about her daughter calling her in tears after being told that she will lose her new job if she does not comply with the vaccine mandate. Chrissy and her daughter are going to a doctor to see about a medical exemption because of her daughter’s autoimmune disease. Renee said she would like to see more work towards finding a “treatment for COVID,” instead of pushing the vaccine mandate.